I wrote this piece last week after the Phoenix conference but have had a few things on my plate after deciding to leave Grassroots horse. I am working on an infrastructure that will enable the kind of public driven/public participation project that I have always desired. I will keep you posted as details solidify and let you know how to support Gordon Cowan, my attorney, moving forward with the First Amendment case.
After writing this piece several events have occured that make the assertions in SJR5 all the more bizarre.
Let’s take a look at the investigation that the public desired to occur over humane violations of Nevada law. First games were played about jurisdiction on a local level. Then an “in house” investigation occured by the BLM. I was there as that “investigation” occured and literally listened as BLM personnel gasped at some of what they witnessed. If an “in house” investigation were occuring the statements of the “in house” personnel would have been enough to solidify actions against conduct, y’ think?
In this instance the local governments, state government, bow to the authority of the Federal government over US public property. The Nevada State Constitution recognizes Federal authority on the over 80% of state land that is US “property.”
But now comes SJR5.
The state Legislature of Nevada has passed through the Committee of Natural Resources SJR5. This legislative move has NOT passed the entire Legislature (it was referred to the committee), nor has it yet been approved by Gov. Sandoval.
The intent is to send this document to Congress and the Vice President to urge them to follow the law. Law that the State Legislature claims disallows the Secretary of the Interior the right to determine where wild horses exist on public land (owned by all Americans) and right to determine what a thriving ecological balance is to enrich the American public under multiple use.
SJR5 insists that the greater use of public land for the American people is to continue to expand mining and livestock use while ignoring the growing desire of the public for preserves and sanctuaries to protect the wild herds.
The law (Wild Horse and Burro Act Sec.4) states:
Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit a private landowner from maintaining wild free-roaming horses or burros on his private lands, or lands leased from the Government, if he does so in a manner that protects them from harassment…
Note: the Secretary also has the discretion to return the land originally designated as Herd Areas to the management of wild herds.
The law currently gives the Secretary discretion to approve private sanctuaries (such as Mustang Monument and Return to Freedom’s proposal) that will give something back to the American people. Sanctuaries have been proposed on private land and land leased (through existing grazing allotments) that will allow the public to view and learn about their heritage. These proposals offer the public an opportunity to enjoy their land and learn of the history unique to this country. These proposals “give back” to the local community through sustainable jobs that have a low impact to the environment through tourism and community involvement. The state of Nevada has a real opportunity to show the world that the industrialization of its nation does not have to come at the cost of the environment and public pride through the destruction of the very symbol of the spirit that made the American West great. Most importantly the assertion that proposals such as Mustang Monument and Return to Freedom are not within the scope of law is false.
Currently our wild horses and burros are stockpiled in a warehouse system that is off limits to public view, exists on land NOT designated for horses in the Act and operates at considerable tax-payer expense. To allow the public, through projects such as Mustang Monument, to be enriched through educational and therapeutic programs at less cost to the tax-payer than the current system only follows common sense.
Fear of change has always been a great stumbling block to progress. We urge you to contact the State Legislature and Governor Sandoval and tell them that you do not fear change that is long overdue in this great state. Historic prejudices must be overcome for the progress to occur that makes America as resilient and strong as our symbol of freedom, the American Mustang.
Text Wild Horse and Burro Act: http://www.wilderness.net/NWPS/documents/publiclaws/PDF/92-195.pdf
Saving Americas Mustangs (Action page): http://www.capwiz.com/madeleinepickens/issues/alert/?alertid=36490501&type=ML