Highway 50 Tragedy Highlights Need for Proactive Management of Virginia Range Horses

Reno, NV – October 3, 2014 – The recent traffic accident on Wednesday involving Virginia Range horses along the Highway 50 corridor in Stagecoach Nevada is bringing to the forefront the dire need for proactive management of wild horses living in the Virginia Range. Wild horse advocates and Return to Freedom, a wild horse sanctuary in California, have been working to secure a private-public partnership with the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) to implement public safety measures to prevent horses from going onto roadways and in urban areas where they pose a public safety hazard.

“We extend our sincere condolences to the victim’s family for this terrible loss. This tragic accident highlights the importance of immediately finalizing the on-the-range management cooperative agreement to allow preventative measures to be taken with the intent to avoid these types of situations,” said Deniz Bolbol of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition organized by Return to Freedom. “Last year, the Governor signed legislation to facilitate a public/private partnership to proactively address Virginia Range horse management. We are awaiting the Governor’s office and NDA’s finalization of the cooperative agreement to implement this win-win solution for the citizens, the state, and the beloved wild horses of the Virginia Range.”

Return to Freedom already has a cooperative agreement with the NDA that provides for first option to purchase any Virginia Range horses captured by the NDA. However, over the last 18 months, the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund and other groups have rescued nearly 200 horses captured and removed from the Virginia Range by the NDA. At this time, sanctuaries and rescue groups are full and limited in their ability to absorb more captured horses. At least 28 Virginia Range horses are being held by NDA – the fates of the majority of these horses is not yet known. It is likely that groups will not be able to rescue this number of horses, and that some will be sent to the slaughter auction. 

"There are specific measures we need to be taking – such as diversionary feeding, building fencing and other actions to prevent these tragic situations. We’ve known for months about horses along the Highway 50 corridor but we were not able to take definitive steps to keep these horses away from this busy road,” said Willis Lamm of Least Resistance Training Concepts, one of the groups that are partnering with Return to Freedom on implementing community based solutions for the Virginia Range horses. “Local volunteers stand ready to work as true partners with the NDA to humanely manage these horses and to implement a fertility control program as soon as possible.  But the clock is ticking.”

Last June, Governor Brian Sandoval signed legislation paving the way for the NDA to enter into management cooperative agreements with advocacy organizations. In October 2013, Return to Freedom/AWHPC submitted a comprehensive proposal to NDA that outlined how local and national organizations would work together to implement the proposal. The group is awaiting NDA’s final approval of that agreement.

Return to Freedom is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America's wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation. RTF provides refuge to 400 wild horses at its California-based American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, founded in 2004 by Return to Freedom, is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come.

The Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund is an all-volunteer Nevada non-profit organization created in 2008 with the mission to protect and preserve the Wild Horses of Nevada’s Virginia Range. Hidden Valley volunteers monitor herd health, provide attention to sick and injured horses and foals, and conduct range improvement projects.

# # #