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Alliance of Wild Horse Advocates'


Voodoo Science on the Range

Editorial Opinion: Voodoo Science on the Range
Willis Lamm
February 4, 2011

Over 85 percent of the land in Nevada belongs to the federal government, ceded to the US by Mexico in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo. Congress deemed that these lands were to be put to productive use wherever appropriate so over the ensuing years a land use policy known as the "Multiple Use Doctrine" was created. This doctrine allowed federal lands to be used for a variety of purposes including livestock grazing, mineral and energy exploration, recreation and wildlife. In 1971 the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros Act officially gave protected status to free-roaming horses and burros found on portions of these federal public lands.

Permitting simultaenous diverse uses on our public lands has naturally created competition among the various stakeholders, along with differing views as to how these uses should be balanced. When based on science, such debates can actually contribute to better management strategies for these lands. However the rural west is steeped in tradition and although the Wild Free-roaming Horses and Burros act is now 40 years old, there is still strong resistance among a segment of the agricultural producers with respect to the standing of horses, wildlife and other uses.

How far this can go was recently illustrated by the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners' Mule Deer Restoration Committee who basically threw science into the wastebasket and argued that more livestock grazing was needed to restore mule deer habitat. Such theories were soundly repudiated by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA,) however the Commission continued along its recent path of putting voodoo science before real science and supported the Committee's recommendations.

The following is a letter that was sent to Governor Brian Sandoval on the subject, followed by a link to the WAFWA report. Anyone concerned about this issue needs to read WAFWA's comments.

Governor Brian Sandoval
101 N. Carson Street
Carson City, NV 89701

Re: Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners

Dear Governor Sandoval:

Several years ago I was excited about being appointed to my county's Advisory Board to
Manage Wildlife.   I was part of what I considered to be a "team" that supported a very
credible Department of Wildlife that was led by a well-respected and competent Director,
Ken Mayer.

It has been my observation that in the years that followed the system that I so admired has
completely broken down.  The Commission became aloof, at times showing disrespect to the
County Advisory Boards (CABs,) Department staff and some of the citizen interest groups. 
The Commission entered into areas that many of us believe have exceeded its authority under
NRS 501.181.  Committees were created and staffed with people who didn't have the
education or qualifications sufficient to provide credible recommendations.  The low point
came last night (February 3rd) when personnel associated with the Western Association of
Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) commented that after the Association reviewed the
Commission's Mule Deer Restoration Committee Report, the majority at WAFWA
considered us (NDoW / NBWC) to be "an embarrassment."

I hope that you can understand my frustration and disappointment.

Nevada's Board of Wildlife Commissioners must get refocused, attend to its statutory
responsibilities, stop micromanaging NDoW and allow the Department to carry out its
responsibilities.  The Commissioners must stop venturing into matters that exceed the duties
and scope of the Commission, start respecting the recommendations of the CABs and the
comments from the public at large, start respecting and complying with the directives issued
from the Governor's office, and stop running this Commission as if it were some kind of a
private hunt club.

In these difficult times Nevada needs cooperation and collaboration from the various 
stakeholders and parties of interest in order to effectively identify and solve problems.
The present atmosphere of acrimony and divisiveness discourages parties from coming to the
table who could contribute toward much needed solutions.

Governor Brian Sandoval
Re: Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners
Page 2

Until the Board of Wildlife Commissioners and its subordinate instruments become generally
regarded as rational, professional and competent, it will be very difficult if not impossible
to bring the parties necessary together to deal with some very real and relevant issues
regarding Nevada's wildlife.  The most cost-effective and efficient means by which
to get started is to firmly establish the principles of cooperation and collaboration
as opposed to the current atmosphere of confrontation.

As someone who is deeply concerned about the successful management of Nevada's wildlife,
I sincerely hope that you will bring about such changes, and that they occur sooner rather
than later.

Thank you for investigating and addressing these troublesome issues.

Respectfully submitted,

Willis Lamm

attachment: Comments from the WAFWA Mule Deer Working Group

Please note that the argument here is not about whether or not the various uses on our public lands should be managed. It is about appropriate management that is based on science and the present alarming trend towards "create your own science" by public bodies that are driven by special interests.

Note: This commentary reflects the views of the writer who is solely responsible for its content. This piece is a followup to the Editorial Board's position entitled, The dangerous folly of the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners.

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