Panel says burros, horses unlawfully using state’s water

CARSON CITY — A Nevada wildlife committee has suggested wild horses and burros are not legally entitled to quench their thirst from water rights allocated to federal agencies to support wildlife.

The Feral Horse Committee of the Nevada Wildlife Commission has drafted a letter to the state engineer, contending the federally protected horses are not wildlife under state law, and the animals’ drinking of water does not constitute “beneficial use” as required for a water rights permit.

Among other things, the committee’s letter says it wants the state engineer to instruct federal agencies to immediately remove any wild horses or burros “that are making unlawful use of Nevada waters.”

“The Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners would strenuously object to any attempt to assign a form of beneficial use of Nevada water for these federally owned animals,” the letter states.

The committee meets Tuesday in Eureka, 240 miles east of Reno . Along with the letter, it will consider an overall policy statement on the wild horse issue, according to a posted agenda.

The wildlife commission, a nine-member body of political appointees chosen by the governor, sets broad wildlife policy. The Nevada Department of Wildlife is the state agency responsible for day-to-day wildlife management.

Jason King, state engineer, said the federal government holds about 28 water permits in Nevada for wildlife, mostly on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

“I only issue permits for what I can lawfully do,” he said.

State law prevents issuing stockwater permits to the federal government, because it doesn’t own livestock. The letter argues that because of that restriction, the federal government erroneously applies for water rights for wildlife.

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