Spirits were high despite bad weather at the Capitol, where about 20 people braved Wednesday's storm to protest removal of wild horses from Nevada's rangelands.
Drivers passing on Carson Street honked their horns in support, protesters waved their signs, and it rained. And rained.
"We're getting lots of thumbs up," said wild horse advocate Kelly Knapp. "I think this is a hot-button issue."
Some of the protesters have first-hand experience with the wild horses.
Edie Best of Fallon said one herd regularly visited her Carson River acreage. She has since moved and ultimately adopted two wild horses taken from the range.
"The horses were here before we were and they need to be free," Best said. "Why can't these horses have their freedom?"
Protester Bobbi Royle, a member of the Wild Horse Spirit organization in Washoe Valley, said she's concerned about genetic viability in the herds.
"The numbers are so low, the herds could be destroyed," she said.
According to figures provided by the protesters, roughly 1,000 wild horses inhabited the Pine Nut Ranch Herd Management Area just outside of Carson City when President Richard Nixon signed the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act into law in 1971.
"Why have the horses been removed, to a little over 100 in the Herd Management Area?" said a statement prepared by the Wild Horse Preservation League. "According to a Bureau of Land Management Official, there was neither a decrease of livestock nor an increase in grazing allotments."
Maxine Shane, public affairs specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, said it's not that simple.
"We appreciate these groups that have an interest in horses and burros, but there are more than two sides to this story," she said. "There are at least three.
"After the law passed in 1971, we identified where the herds were and called them herd management areas," she said. "The law further directed that after we established those areas, we needed to take into account other uses of land, including habitat, and whether the lands were public or privately owned."
She said Nevada's herd management areas, which originally numbered 122, have been reduced to 102, primarily because much of that land is privately owned.
"We are charged with making sure the range in good condition. If the range lands are poor condition, they won't sustain animals," Shane said. "We've set appropriate management levels on 88 of those 102 herd management areas and we continue monitoring data and land use by all animals in that area."
Wild horse advocates contend the horses and burros have the legal right to be on public lands.
"For private livestock, (grazing on public land) is a paid privilege," the advocates said. "If the open range environment is to be protected, shouldn't there be a reduction of livestock as well as wild horses and burros?"
Contact Susie Vasquez at email@example.com or 881-1212.