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Gov. Brian Sandoval is urging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to reconsider livestock grazing restrictions in northeastern Nevada, saying they may now be unwarranted given a wet winter that has drought conditions on the mend.

The Republican governor who called for expedited roundups of wild horses in Nevada says the BLM’s management scheme wrongly prioritizes mustangs ahead of ranchers — a matter of much debate for decades in the 10 Western states where mustangs roam from California to Colorado.

Sandoval said widespread precipitation has provided healthy forage and water resources in areas stung by five consecutive years of drought.

“Drought conditions in 2015 were a very different story and decisions based on that time frame need to be revisited — especially decisions that drastically affect an industry and the livelihoods of many hardworking Nevadans,” he said in a letter last week to BLM Nevada state Director John Ruhs, arguing against grazing restrictions anticipated this summer based on last fall’s assessments.

Sandoval said he’s concerned about the growing overpopulation of horses, “the negative impact they have on our rangeland and the burden of the proposed solution being solely put upon the livestock industry.” He said the proposed action “prioritizes wild horse populations above livestock producers.”

Nevada is home to nearly 28,000 wild horses — more than half of the 47,000 estimated in the West. BLM argues the range can sustain less than half that many — about 12,000 in Nevada and 26,000 nationally.

Nevada BLM spokesman Stephen Clutter agrees there’s been “significant improvements” in drought conditions during the past year but expressed caution. “The effects of drought are cumulative and it can take several years of good precipitation for vegetation to fully recover,” he said.

Nevada state Water Engineer Jason King said last week the 2015-16 winter was good when considering the four years prior. “I characterize it as an average water year. We’re doing much better than we were, but we’re not out of the drought, and we shouldn’t forget that.”

 

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