The wild horse debate continues to rage on in Nevada. On Thursday September 7th, there was a unique debate set up in Elko to discuss the impact wild horses have on Nevada. Approximately 200 people gathered for the debate, dubbed “Dust-Up in the Desert: A live debate on wild horses and their place on our public lands”. The debate involved Republican Sen. Ira Hansen and animal rights activist Scott Beckstead. Both men have been debating online for months on the topic, but this was their first live debate.
Sen. Hansen defended his stance that wild horses were overpopulated in Nevada, which is detrimental to wildlife and damaging rangeland. Nevada’s population of more than 40,000 wild horses and burros is wreaking havoc on Nevada’s public lands according to Sen. Hansen. The BLM and Hansen say that statistically Nevada’s land can only support at most 14,000 horses. Beckstead argued that they were pulling numbers out of the air and that the problem was livestock grazing and that driving through Nevada he saw “more cattle than horses’’. He went on to accuse the BLM of being “in bed” with the livestock industry.
Beckstead then questioned state-issued hunting tags as the reason for wildlife population decline. “Again, I don’t see wild horses out there killing mule deer” Beckstead stated, concluding that wildlife and horses can peacefully coexist.
In closing both sides held firm on their beliefs. Beckstead blaming livestock, “the real nonnative species” sheep and cattle are what is causing the “ecological disaster, and that “financial motives” are at play. Stating that “it’s about tax-subsidized grazing. People are making a lot of money by saying wild horses are overpopulated.”
Hansen argued that lack of funding for the BLM is partially the cause, “we haven’t been able to properly manage the horses in Nevada since 1971. I want to see healthy Nevada rangeland, for the wildlife, for the horses. When you see what’s going on on the range, it’s not the livestock.”
So the age old question on wild horses remains and Nevadans are left to ponder, is it an ecological catastrophe or government gas lighting?