State looks to improve management of Virginia Range

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State looks to improve management of Virginia Range

Changes in law during this past legislative session are now allowing the state of Nevada to better manage the wild horses on the Virginia Range.

Almost all the horses in Nevada fall under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management. The Virginia Range is the exception. It's managed by the state. That means the horses are not protected under federal law as they are on almost all other land. Instead, they're considered stray and feral livestock.

For these reasons, the Virginia Range has been problematic from a public safety standpoint for awhile. The state doesn't have the same resources to manage the horses as the BLM does. The range abuts a number of major thruways. It's roughly defined as south of 1-80 to highway 50 and running east from McCarran Boulevard to Fernley.

Because of recent changes to state law, the Nevada Department of Agriculture can now look to a private or non-profit organization to manage the range. Bob Conrad is with the Department of Agriculture.

"Ideally, what we're looking for is an organization that can essentially partner or enter into an agreement with the state to prevent these public safety issues and maintain healthy populations of horses."

Conrad says it's possible there could be gathers to manage the range, which is now at over-capacity. He says the Virginia Range includes both state and private land, and they've received a number of complaints about the horses coming onto private property.

Earlier this year the department signed an agreement with the California-based Return to Freedom Inc. giving the advocacy group first dibs on horses gathered from the Virginia Range to protect them from slaughter.