Nevada Dept. of Agriculture Signs Precedent-Setting Agreement with Advocates to Protect Historic Virginia Range Horses

/ In The News, Ticker

Agreement finalizes plan to humanely manage the state’s wild horses

(Carson City, Nev.) March 17, 2015 — Today, Return to Freedom, the founding organization of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), signed a cooperative agreement with the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) to humanely manage more than 1,500 horses in the Virginia Range, which encompasses more than 280,000 acres. This precedent-setting agreement launches the largest ever private-public partnership to manage wild horses while at the same time improving public safety and benefiting Nevada taxpayers.

AWHPC coalition partner the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) has generously provided much-needed resources to launch the management agreement. The grant funding will be used to implement management actions to prevent horses from entering neighborhoods or roadways–the primary reasons cited by the NDA for the removal of Virginia Range horses from the wild. Local Nevada organizations working with Return to Freedom/AWHPC to implement the management program include Hidden Valley Wild Horse Preservation and Rescue Fund, Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, Wild Horse Preservation League and The Wild Spirit Horse, Inc.

“Return to Freedom has been honored to umbrella this precedent setting project and looks forward to working with the State, local horse organizations and the ASPCA to humanely manage these beloved horses in the wild and prevent removing them from their family bands and homes on the range,” said Neda DeMayo founder and CEO of Return to Freedom. “The cornerstone of this historic effort is the tireless, day-in-and-day-out work by local Nevadans to keep these horses wild and out of harm’s way. We encourage anyone who loves the Virginia Range horses to get involved by contacting these local groups.”

“We are proud to support this exciting and historic partnership between the community and the government to protect the wild horses of the Virginia Range Horse herd,” said Kevin O’Neill, senior director of ASPCA Government Relations for the Western region. “The ASPCA believes in supporting locally-based programs that move the bar forward for animal protection, and this project promises to create an innovative model for humane wild horse management that will be applicable throughout the West.”

In June 2013 Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval held a signing ceremony for Assembly Bill 264 (AB264), which allows the NDA to resume cooperative agreements between the state and non-profit organizations to humanely oversee the wild horses in the Virginia Range near Reno. In March 2013, Return to Freedom signed the first cooperative agreement with the NDA that provides for first option to purchase any Virginia Range horses captured by the NDA. However, over the last two years, the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund and other groups have rescued more than 200 horses captured and removed from the Virginia Range by the NDA.

“This agreement has been two years in the making, and we are very pleased that it has been signed,” said AWHPC’s Deniz Bolbol, who negotiated the agreement with the state. “We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work to keep the cherished Virginia Range wild horses wild and free on the range.”

The State has jurisdiction over the historic Virginia Range horses, who have roamed the northern Nevada mountain range for more than a century. Because they make their home on state, local and private land, instead of federal land, they are not protected under the federal Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and are classified as “estray livestock” by the NDA.

Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America’s wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation, Return to Freedom provides a safe haven to over 370 wild horses and burros at its sanctuaries in California and advocates for the redirection of funds from costly and traumatic roundups to viable solutions to manage wild horses and burros on their ranges.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom, is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.