Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013 | 5 p.m.
A state senator from Las Vegas believes the wild horses and burros roaming the range in Nevada "are living symbols of freedom and our American Western heritage."
Democrat Sen. Mark Manendo says limiting their number "may jeopardize their genetic diversity, health and long-term survival in the state of Nevada."
Manendo says setting up sanctuaries would draw visitors for an up-close look at the free-roaming mustangs.
His joint resolution, made public Thursday, is ready for introduction on the first day of the 2013 Legislature starting Feb. 4.
The resolution was prompted by the controversy surrounding the roundup of wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management and the fear that 41 horses up for auction might end up in slaughter plants.
Manendo said he had asked for the resolution to be drafted earlier but the final version was not ready until this week.
There were 41 "feral" or "estray" horses that were captured on mostly private lands by the Department of Agriculture.
And there have been complaints by wild horse advocates that the BLM mistreats the mustangs taken into custody on public lands and shipped out of state.
Manendo's resolution says "building eco-sanctuaries that enable the public to view and photograph wild horses and burros may provide a much-needed boost to the Nevada economy."
Senate Joint Resolution 1, if passed by both houses of the Legislature, would not have the effect of a law but merely encourages advocates, the state and federal agencies to work together to preserve the horses.
The auction Wednesday raised about $10,000, said state Agriculture Director Jim Barbee. The money goes into an estray horse fund.
He said it cost the agency $4,000 to $5,000 to feed the horses after their capture in the Reno-Carson City area. And it will be able to recoup those costs. The horses were purchased by advocates or affiliated groups who now must find homes for them.
In 2011, more than 50 highway accidents were caused by the horses that wandered onto roads; Barbee said no one was killed but there were some close calls.
Most of the horses died or had to be "put down" because of their injuries, he said.
Barbee said the agency at one point sold the horses for $90 to the advocacy group Let 'Em Run Foundation, but that policy was suspended when it was discovered the animals were being put back on the same land to graze.
He noted a criminal complaint was filed in Virginia City last October against the foundation, Shirley Allen and Willis Lamm charging they abandoned eight horses, allowed them to roam without proper brands and denied them food and water.
The group said they are innocent of the misdemeanor charges. Storey County District Attorney Bill Maddox said no trial date has been set for Justice Court.
Barbee said the BLM declared there were no wild horse herds in this area, which left it up to the state to handle the matter.