In light of the Nevada Department of Agriculture’s (NDA’s) announcement that the agency has received no responses to its Request for Proposal (RFP) to give away approximately 3,000 Virginia Range wild horses, the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) has renewed its call to the Nevada Department of Agriculture and Governor Briand Sandoval to immediately commence negotiations to resolve issues the NDA raised under the Cooperative Agreements that established a public/private partnership for the humane management the free-roaming Virginia Range horses.
AWHC has worked to address all issues related to horses on the range, including population control through a humane birth control program.
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AWHC filed a lawsuit to stop the RFP because it violates NRS Chapter 569 and constitutes a material breach of the Cooperative Agreements between the NDA and AWHC. AWHC is represented by Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP (Wilson Elser).
“We are glad the state’s terrible idea of giving away the beloved Virginia Range horses is finally dead,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC. “The vast majority of Nevadans love the horses and want them protected. Now the Governor and Nevada Department of Agriculture must bring together all stakeholders to develop a comprehensive cooperative agreement to humanely manage these historic horses."
Last November, the Governor’s office confirmed its position that the proper management and preservation of the wild horses was the NDA’s responsibility to manage in collaboration and in partnership with non-profit organizations like AWHC. Governor Sandoval must now take the lead in establishing a forum to work with AWHC, local advocates, business leaders and government officials to create a public-private program that will protect and humanely manage the wild horses and improve public safety in the horses’ 500 square mile habitat area.
“AWHC continues to stand ready to work with the Governor, NDA, the businesses at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center and other interested parties to address issues and immediately resume the humane management of the Virginia range horses to protect public safety and preserve this treasured natural resource,” Roy continued.
In 2013, the Nevada Legislature passed, and Governor Brian Sandoval, signed into law AB264 to facilitate a public/private partnership for the humane management of the Virginia Range horses.
Under state law, the NDA is responsible for the management and control of the Virginia Range horses. In 2013 and 2015, the State entered into two Cooperative Agreements with the AWHC for the management of the Virginia Range horses. The first agreement requires the state to notify AWHC when it removes Virginia Range horses from the wild and gives AWHC the first right to purchase the horses before they were sent to the slaughter auction.
The second agreement expanded AWHC’s management role of the Virginia Range horses. Under the second agreement AWHC worked with the NDA to address all issues related to the horses on the range, including public safety issues, range management issues and population control through a humane birth control program.
During these Cooperative Agreements AWHC expended in excess of $400,000 to assist the NDA with their management responsibilities.
Over the past four years, AWHC has been directly involved in rescuing approximately 250 Virginia Range horses, preventing nearly 150 births in 2017 and an estimated 200 pregnancies in 2018. Since 2013, AWHC under the cooperative agreements has humanely reduced the Virginia Range horse population by approximately 600 horses out of an estimated population of 3,000.
Since the Virginia Range horses’ habitat is decreasing in size due to human encroachment, the state’s decision to terminate the birth control program sets the stage for the horse population to increase. An increase in the population of the wild horses combined with the shrinking horse habitat will likely increase wild horse movement into urban areas which will undoubtedly increase public safety problems.
On October 25, 2017, AWHC received a 30-day termination notice from the NDA for both Cooperative Agreements. The termination notice was delivered without warning, despite the agreements’ requirement that both parties act in good faith and attempt to work out any differences that arise in private. (AWHC received the termination notice at the same time as the media.)
It is the NDA’s position that with its termination of the Cooperative Agreements that it is no longer legally required to notify humane horse organizations when Virginia Range horses have been removed from the wild and are being sent to slaughter auction.
It is AWHC’s position that the NDA’s termination of the cooperative agreements is invalid. AWHC contends the NDA must commence immediate negotiations with AWHC, local government official and local business leaders to address their issues with the management of the wild horses so both parties can resolve this dispute for the benefit of the horses and the residence of the Virginia Range Area.
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is dedicated to preserving American wild horses and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.