SPARKS, Nev. -- The Nevada Department of Agriculture today issued a request for information (RFI) to enter into a cooperative agreement for the management of the Virginia Range feral and estray horse population.The Department is requesting information from qualified organizations to develop a horse management plan for the Virginia Range estray and feral horse population. The Department has legal authority over the Virginia Range horses but has no designated funding or staff to manage the horses. The Department is therefore seeking to enter a cooperative agreement with an organization to manage and sustain the Virginia Range horses at healthy levels and to preserve public safety.“Changes in law from the 2013 session of the Nevada Legislature allow the department to enter into an agreement with a private non-profit organization for the management of the Virigina Range feral and estray horses,” said Department Director Jim Barbee. “This is an opportunity for a private group to provide solutions for the healthy management of the Virginia Range horses.”The main components of the RFI are maintaining healthy horse populations and protecting public safety in accordance with state statutes and administrative codes. The RFI may be found here. BACKGROUNDThe history of the Virginia Range horse population is characterized controversy. Numerous issues have impacted horse management, including: population growth, encroachment into urban areas and subsequent public safety and traffic issues, scrutiny, private and federal property concerns, and even legal action. Despite common misconceptions that these animals are wild horses, the federal Bureau of Land Management declared the Virginia Range “wild horse free area” through a land use planning process in 1986. The herd in the Virginia Range is designated as estray/feral livestock. Since the animals are not on BLM herd management areas, all horses, which have migrated or have been “let go” onto the Virginia Range, fall under existing Nevada state laws pertaining to estray/feral livestock. These include NRS 569.0075, 569.008 and 569.0085. Although the horses do not fall under protection of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the Nevada Department of Agriculture and the State of Nevada have taken precautions to ensure the estray/feral horses have been cared for in accordance with Nevada state law. For past two years, the only horses that have been trapped and transferred to the Warm Springs Correctional Center are those considered to be public safety concerns. Public safety concerns include livestock that are in residential areas and horses in close proximity to roadways. Currently, no general fund money is allocated for the management of feral or estray livestock, other than the reimbursement from the sale of the livestock.The Nevada Department of Agriculture recently entered into a signed a placement cooperative agreement with Return to Freedom, Inc. (RTF), a non-profit organization located in Lompoc, Calif. RTF is a sponsor of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. RTF may purchase all horses collected by the Department for public safety purposes for $100 per horse on an as-is basis. Any horses tendered to but not accepted by RTF within two business days after being notified shall be subject to disposition by the Department in any manner permitted by law. RTF works with third-parties who adopt or purchase the estray horses ensuring that the horses will not be released back on the Virginia Range, a violation of Nevada law. RTF provides the Department with an annual report of all horses resold or placed during the previous 12 months. The cooperative agreement with RTF applies to Washoe, Storey and Lyon Counties and the consolidated municipality of Carson City. The Virginia Range covers the geographical area of I-80 south to Fernley Alt 95, south to the junction of HWY 50 west, to U.S. 395 north to the east side of the McCarren loop north to the McCarran and I-80 intersection.