A place to roam | NevadaAppeal.com

A place to roam

Karen Woodmansee
Appeal Staff Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

A group of wild-horse advocates and an industrial park owner are teaming up to provide the horses of the Virginia Range with a new home.

Willis Lamm, director of Least Resistance Training Concepts, has been working on creating a habitat-management project that will put about 450 horses on the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center, where family groups can be kept together to preserve gene pools. The animals also can be studied along with their habitat and eventually can find a home of their own, despite the pressures of encroaching development.

“We’re developing the horses out of here,” he said. “Hopefully we can establish permanent remaining rangeland.”

The training company is being aided by other groups who are willing to take responsibility for the horses the state has been boarding at Northern Nevada Correctional Center as long as the Department of Agriculture is willing to assist with the habitat-management project.

Industrial center owner Lance Gilman has agreed to allow horses to be relocated to a partially fenced but undeveloped section of the industrial park, which was part of the old Asamera Ranch.

He was joined by country singer and wild horse activist Lacy J. Dalton, state Department of Agriculture program manager Mike Holmes, and several wild-horse advocates, including Lamm, at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center stables on Friday, where 60 horses from the Virginia Range are now being kept. The animals will be divided into family groups and gradually taken to the old ranch property.

Budget problems have forced the state to look at alternatives for the horses, with adoptions down, including inquiring at Fallon’s livestock auctions.

Acting State Veterinarian Dr. Annette Rink confirmed that inquiries had been made to the Fallon Livestock Exchange.

“The department has statutory authority to do so, and we are exploring all legal action,” she said. “But we don’t have the desire to sell these horses.”

Monty Brock, manager of the livestock exchange said someone from the state did inquire about selling horses at auction, but he turned them down.

“We do other livestock,” he said. “We don’t do that kind of horse.”

The state pays $2.80 per day for each horse older than 6 months of age, Rink said, in addition to the hay, which she didn’t have a cost for but said it was higher this year than in past years. She said the state had about 100 Virginia Range horses at the prison and that BLM also had horses there.

“We can’t support the horses,” she said. “We have filled our pens to the maximum. Right now we are not able anymore to respond to nuisance calls, or calls from people in the area where horses go into their backyard and avail themselves of their landscaping. We don’t have any more room to put them.”

Gilman said only 30,000 acres of the 104,000 acre ranch will be used for industrial development and it’s still 20 years from complete buildout. The park runs from Interstate 80 to Highway 50 and from Fernley west to Mustang.

“We have about 70,000 acres for the horses,” he said, though he admitted other things could happen with the land, such as a Bureau of Land Management swap.

He said the corporate heads and their employees at the industrial park enjoy seeing the horses, and there won’t be as much of a conflict as there as with residential development.

“We enjoy them as wild horses,” he said. “We have a lot of wildlife, we have a lot of deer, there’s cats, and a mountain lion who had her cubs up there.”

He said Wal-Mart, which operates a distribution center in TRIC, have adopted the horses on their logo as a symbol of their support for the animals.

“If the community can rally around this returning the horses to the wild, I really think we can keep them wild,” he said. “Like Lacy’s song says, ‘Let ’em Run.'”

Lacy J. Dalton, the country singer who has made the wild horses her main cause, has for years planned on providing a sanctuary for the horses of the Virginia Range. She called the agreement among Gilman, the horse groups and the state “baby steps.”

“I’m glad to see this happen,” she said. “I think the community is going to be overjoyed. I think the horse groups are going to be overjoyed with us taking this baby step.”

Dalton, who founded “Let ’em Run,” a wild horse advocacy organization, praised Gilman for his dedication to wildlife.

“TRI is earth-friendly in a lot of things,” she said. “TRI is the largest industrial park in the world and is on the cutting edge of giving back to the Earth.”

Holmes said time will tell if sending the 60 horses at the state’s prison to TRI is a good plan.

“That’s something that we’re going to have to see,” he said, adding that most of the animals he has had to pick up two or three times.

“They don’t want to stay in the hills,” he said. “I don’t blame them. It’s easier to pick some well-maintained lawns than to eat dried cheatgrass.”

Lamm said the program will include a habitat management program as well as a birth-control program that will reduce breeding, though not end it completely.

“We want to take custody of the horses and they will all go to TRI to be part of the habitat management project,” Lamm said. “That hopefully will lead to a permanent home for all the horses on the Virginia Range.”

He hopes that through this draft program the advocates can observe or predict problems and suggest solutions before there are horse-human conflicts.

Rink said although she has seen a write-up on the suggestion, she didn’t consider it a plan.

“It wasn’t detailed enough to even determine what the plan entails,” she said. “I saw a five-page write-up. If someone presents a well-constructed, doable study plan that will benefit the horses, the Department of Agriculture will participate as far as we are able to participate under fiscal and personnel constraints.”

She said not just anyone could not put together such a proposal.

“This would have to be an interdisciplinary study between people who know the wildlife side, the horses’ side and the range,” she said. “But this is not something that a lay person hammers out. This is something that has to be done at a minimum with an educational institution. You have to have a range expert and significant documented expertise to do this in an organized manner.”

She said the state is having difficulty managing the horse program.

“The purpose is to manage these horses for long-term sustainability, which at the moment we can’t do because of fiscal constraints,” she said.

Holmes estimates about 1,100 to 1,200 horses are in the Virginia Range.

“What’s going on is there are more horses than we can get adopted and the state can’t feed them forever,” he said. “We need something to do with the horses as quickly as possible. We are always trying to find an alternative solution.”

• Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at kwoodmansee@nevadaappeal.com or 881-7351.

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