I-Team: Advocates Fighting Cold Creek Wild Horse Roundups - 8 News NOW

I-Team: Advocates Fighting Cold Creek Wild Horse Roundups

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COLD CREEK, Nev. -- Wild horses and burros living in the Spring Mountains in southern Nevada aren't likely to remain free much longer.

The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service have proposed a range of alternatives for the local horse herds, but that process almost always ends in roundups.

One of the best known and most accessible herds lives in Cold Creek, 30 minutes north of Las Vegas.

Residents there are passionate about the mustangs that live among them, and Thursday night, they gave the government an earful.

Cold Creek residents know what Charlie Brown feels like every time Lucy snatches away that football.

Seven years ago, they pleaded and argued with the BLM to not take away the mustangs that live in their area. The government promised to listen to their concerns, then promptly went ahead anyway. In fact, in more than 20 years of covering the wild horse story, we can't think of a single time that public opposition caused the BLM to cancel a roundup.

This time, they're talking about spending $1 million or so to capture around 400 horses from the Spring Mountains, or maybe not taking any. Residents are pretty sure they know which option will be chosen.

"Wild horses are magnificent," Cold Creek resident Kathy Valente said. "They helped build this country."

Added wild horse advocate Robin Warren, "Let nature take its course. I'd rather them die on this land than in captivity."

Cold Creek resident Kevin Malney said, "I bought land here in 2005 mainly because of the horses. It's unique, one of the few places in America or the world where wild horses still roam."

One by one, the residents of Cold Creek and their wild horse allies from Las Vegas unloaded on a panel of Forest Service employees concerning a range of alternatives being considered for the horses and burros of the Spring Mountains.

For many, it was a blast of deja vu. Seven years ago, they turned out to make public comments to the BLM about yet another plan to round up horses. The BLM wouldn't allow them to speak, but only to submit written comments and questions. Then, as now, opposition to proposed roundups was virtually unanimous and the government promised to keep that in mind when it made a decision. It then quickly ignored the public's wishes and rounded up as many horses and burros as it could find, terrifying the individual bands with choppers, running them for miles across the desert, sometimes using violence to subdue the beasts. And now, here we are again.

I-Team: Tell me, what's the point of this?

Cold Creek resident Rhea Little: Because it's the law. They have to do it.

I-Team: But will it make any difference?

Little: No. I'd be highly surprised.

Cold Creek has learned the hard way to not believe anything the government says about the horses. Just weeks ago, a massive, million dollar study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences for the BLM determined the wild horse program to be an abysmal failure, finding that the BLM does little more than guess about the number of horses, their impact on the range, and concluding the policy of recurrent roundups simply does not work and is more likely counterproductive. But the BLM hasn't missed a beat and is proceeding with plans for more roundups all over the West, including Cold Creek and the Spring Mountains.

"You have no basis for claiming there are 400 horses here," wild horse advocate Melissa Ohlsson said. "You don't have a clue how many horses are here."

Cold Creek resident Greg Clarke said, "I believe you do this because you have contractors who are part of your organization, former BLM employees, so you spend money on helicopters instead of humane ways to treat horses."

Wild horse advocate Donna Comidi said, "This is just blowing smoke you-know-where. You think you are appeasing us. You're not, because we've been through this before. Nothing changes."

Most who live in Cold Creek said the ability to encounter horses in their yards in the morning or to see them in the evening around a water hole is a main reason they live where they do. Some residents get to know each and every horse by sight. During the I-Team's interview of Little outside Thursday's meeting, a band of wild horses wandered into the shot, as if on cue, and little recognized them.

"Oh yes, that's one of the twins," Little said of the horses. "I know each and every one. Twin sisters, different father."

Are the numbers accurate? Not even close.

Will the Forest Service and BLM listen to the roundup opponents this time? Is it possible they will skip the roundup altogether? See if you can decipher this:

I-Team: The opposition is unanimous. Does that make any difference?

U.S. Forest Service area manager Randy Swick: It does to me. We need to get a balance of horses and burros and match them to the resources of the range.

If ever there was a chance for the feds to break the mold and do something differently, Cold Creek might be it. There are no cattle ranches competing for the range, just other wildlife, as well as weekend off-roaders who rip through the desert causing more damage than horses ever did. Residents said they would help with reseeding the land, or with contraception programs, or options other than roundups. Is the government listening? Or is Lucy about to yank away the football again?

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