State Livestock Board Executive Director Ray Baca says the Coronado Soil and Water Conservation District has no authority to order his agency to round up the free-roaming horses in Placitas.
Baca says the Livestock Board will assist in any way it legally can, but the horses are the problem of Sandoval County and property owners in Placitas.
“If they are trespassing on private property each owner has the right to impound those animals,” Baca said on Tuesday. “They’re the custodian of their own property, we’re not. We can’t trespass on private property to impound.”
Placitas residents estimate there are around 100 free-roaming horses in the area. Many have raised concerns about the damage they are causing on public and private land and the dangers posed by horses wandering on the roads.
The Placitas-based nonprofit Wild Horse Observers Association has offered to remove about 40 horses it says are in danger on the roads. Association President Patience O’Dowd did not respond to requests for comment on the Coronado order.
Baca said, by law, impounded animals can be presented to the Livestock Board, which has the authority to determine who owns them. If no owner is found, the Livestock Board has the authority to sell them.
Coronado is an independent political subdivision of the state, tasked with protecting the environment. Its district covers Placitas and surrounding areas. Its board issued the order on Monday saying the horses were damaging Placitas land and water sources and should be immediately removed.
Placitas resident Gary Miles, who will join the Coronado board next month, wrote to the Attorney General claiming the board violated the state Open Meetings Act by not properly giving notice about the order or taking public comment on the issue, among other things.
Coronado’s board member Jon Couch said in an email that the Placitas horse problems were on the agenda for a June 4 public meeting where the board discussed a draft of the order and unanimously voted to issue it “to stop rampant soil erosion and overgrazing.”
Board members based their decision on a state law which says “estray” livestock, those found trespassing on land or running loose on public roads, are “subject to impoundment by an agent of the New Mexico Livestock Board,” according to an email from a Coronado staffer.