Deadline Looms for Nevada Wild Horse Herd

Maryann Mott
for National Geographic News
January 13, 2003

A coalition of 18 rescue groups from around the United States have until Wednesday to raise thousands of dollars to buy the horses from the state. If they fail, the animals will be rounded up and sold at auction.

With no training or registration papers, the horses will likely be purchased by slaughter houses that ship the meat overseas for human consumption, said the group's spokesman, Jerry Finch of Habitat for Horses in Hitchcock, Texas.

So far, the coalition has found homes for 457 of the 980 horses located near Elko, Nevada. To save the rest of the herd, Finch said U.S. $26,150 must be raised within the next few days. The horses could then be purchased and moved to private lands in Nevada or Missouri, giving the nonprofit organizations the time needed to find new owners.

"People are working like mad," Finch said. He indicated that some volunteers are staying up around the clock to set up adoptions and make transportation and foster care arrangements.

The wild horses are being rounded up because of a land ownership and grazing dispute between the Federal government and two sisters, who are members of the Western Shoshone Indian tribe.

Finch says he doesn't care who owns the land or the grazing rights. He just cares about the fate of the wild horses, which he says are "a part of our American heritage."

Finch sprang into action last week when the Nevada Department of Agriculture solicited his help in placing the horses. Knowing there were more animals than his nonprofit organization could handle, he turned to fellow rescuer, Jennifer Williams, of Lone Star Equine Rescue in Texas, to assist in coordinating the massive adoption campaign, dubbed the "Nevada 980 Project."

The Texans used e-mail lists, Web discussion groups, and Internet direct-mail campaigns to get the word out about the project.

"Without our Yahoo! groups, we would be dead in the water," said Kristin Iden, the project's communication coordinator. "More than 400 people—some from as far away as New York and Florida—have stepped forward to help. The Internet has allowed the large group to communicate with one another effectively and quickly," she said.

Only registered nonprofit organizations are allowed to purchase the horses from the state. In turn, the groups will allow individuals to adopt the horses for U.S. $300.

Wild horses can be tamed, but Finch said it takes someone who is knowledgeable and experienced. "It takes a professional trainer," he said. "It's not something you can read about then go out and do it in the afternoon."

For more information, contact Jerry Finch of Habitat for Horses at +1 409 935 0277 or admin@habitatforhorses.org.

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