I’ve been spending the past week in Borba-Landia: Where Truth Takes a Holiday for scofflaw trespass rancher Kevin Borba. It started innocently enough. Last Tuesday, July 28 on Hwy 50 in Nevada, I noticed something didn’t geel quite right and wrote about that in the last post. A beat up long yearling that had been pushed out and fenced out.
Little did I know I was about to step into a middle of a range war between a trespass rancher and BLM.
It was late so I found a place to camp and continued on to Battle Mountain the next morning to meet Shawna Richardson, the Wild Horse and Burro Specialist. She had invited me to come find out about the comprehensive contraception she had implemented there. I met Shawna last October at the Great Basin Advisory Committee meeting in Elko. She has nearly twenty years experience managing the BLM wild horses and I’d come to respect not only her passion and commitment, but her transparency.
I’d tried to get here for over a month, but fate had different had plans and my delay put me right in the middle of a rancher/BLM sh*t storm. Made it to Battle Mountain Wed afternoon. One of the angry signs in the empty lot across from the Mount Lewis Field Office said, “Impeach Doug Furtado” the district manager, and other epitaphs. It was disconcerting. I showed Shawna the pics of the colt. She had concerns. The next morning, Thursday, July 30 I drove to the Fish Creek HMA with she and Laura Leigh. Leigh, who has been a thorn in the side of both ranchers and BLM, was now an official volunteer, trained by Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick to dart the contraceptive PZP. We were to set panels near the southern water source in preparation for possible water trapping and contraception treatment later this year.
When we got there horses were at the road head and Shawna remarked that something did not feel right.
We were lucky to have the fire crew guys to do the heavy lifting. (Woo hoo!) Shawna and Laura changed out the cards in the game cameras and we looped back north to check other water sources.
We spotted several bands moving toward a marginal water source. They don’t look so bad here on Thursday. Rancher Kevin Borba apparently shadowed us to the place where we set the panels and right after we left recorded a video, carefully implying the water was his without actually saying so. I pulled the permits and BLM owns two of the three permits for that water. There is a third registered to the previous lease owner. Seems like someone forgot to do their paperwork. Part of the grazing lease agreement is the responsibility of the leasee to maintain water sources. Not only that, on any HMA in Nevada, wild horses have a right to water. Click here: Nevada Water Rights for Wild Horses You can see the Borba video here: Kevin Borba water claim video.
Here some of the Fish Creek horses go down to a marginal water source. We were soon to discover the reason. A float malfunction on their main water source had caused the water to drain prematurely.
We immediately drove to Eureka, about 30 minutes away to procure gas for the generator that fills this tank. It’s Thursday, July 30, 2014 at 2:46 pm (date and time taken from the photo metadata) and the water is running. Problem solved, one would think. We won’t know how long the horses were without a good source of water until the game camera photos are analyzed. While we had coverage in Eureka it was discovered that there was “slam the BLM” video on Facebook, linked above, where Mr. Borba implies the southern water is his. Tensions escalated.
Things began to unravel from there. Later Mr. Borba took it upon himself to begin watering horses at the road and continued to do so, posting inflammatory videos and stirring up an enormous backlash. Click here to view Borba video 2 This would later snowball in the media sensation around Sarge, the extremely sick horse that became once again, a propaganda pawn. You have to wonder how a busy rancher has so much time to kill.
The storm that brewed over the weekend had hysterical people calling literally, from all over the world. I had put my ass on the line saying that there was water there and was being accused of using old photographs, even though this was the first and only time I’d been here. I felt compelled to drive the 150 miles back down to Fish Creek to make sure for myself. I was warned that Mr. Borba was filming, probably with Protect the Harvest, a right wing, pro rancher coalition and maker of propaganda videos, financed by by Dave Duquette and Lucas Oil, gazillionaire, pro-slaughter rancher and race car aficionado, who have been using Mr. Borba as their poster child. One of the last videos posted by Borba show him expressing his gratitude to Protect the Harvest for the ATV they gave him.
I was warned to be careful. Tensions were running high in Nevada. There was a dispute, similar to the Cliven Bundy issue over the Argenta Allotment. The tension in the air was palpable.
It was dark by the time I got there so I slept in the van. I woke early and reveled momentarily in the peace of dawn in the desert dawn. When I got to Antelope Rd. this is what I saw.
Mr. Borba’s trough was dry and I hoped that he had ceased watering as asked so the horses would return to their regular source. There were no horses visible. I hoped that they had gone back up to their good water.
Far in the distance I saw a group of eight horses making their way back up in the direction of water.
Taking their sweet time, grazing as they went. So much for the hysteria on FB with people wanting to bring them food. Plenty of graze out here right now, thank Dog.
Relieved, I saw that there was plenty of good water.
And glad to see hoof prints, including a foal’s as well as deer and pronghorn. Something bothered me though. There should have been a lot more action at the trough. It seemed that only 4 or 5 horses had been there. I hoped that Mr. Borba had stopped watering and that the horses that I saw coming this way would show up soon. But they did not.
I went to Eureka for breakfast and came back in the afternoon. Good water and still no horses. Hmmm… But wait… more videos from Mr. Borba! Borba video 3
After illegally watering horses for five days, when they had good water waiting for them, and the viral nature of these self promotional propaganda videos there is a massive backlash against BLM for “not doing something.” Shawna Richardson, managing twenty eight Horse Management Areas, and stationed 150 miles away, was catching flack for not being the all seeing eye. Seems Mr. Borba, who is having financial issues with his ranch, saw an opportunity and grabbed it.
For more background on this here are some links:
Horseback Magazine 2/15 gives even-handed background on the Fish Creek Contraceptive program and why it’s important as well as a bit on Borba.
I will continue with more details as I have time to post. This is just the half of it.