Republican Rep. Ron Paul, who represents the 14th Congressional District of Texas,railed against the federal government's influence in the West on Thursday, saying states are in the best position to resolve conflicts over the management of wild horses and roads on public lands.
About 300 people turned out to see Paul at an Elko rally ahead of Saturday's presidential caucus. As many or more gathered to see him Thursday night at a rally in Reno.
The Texas congressman said that while he's unsure of the solution to the wild horse problem in Nevada and other Western states, federal land managers should be the last resort to resolve the issue.
"I can guarantee they'll make a wrong decision and not please anyone," he said. "The more privatized and localized, the better solution it would be."
In recent years, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has removed thousands of "excess" wild horses from public lands in the West, saying they harm rangelands and native wildlife. Horse advocates oppose the move, saying the agency is out to appease ranchers and make room for cattle.
Paul said the U.S. Forest Service should not be imposing travel management plans on public land in Nevada and elsewhere across the West. The effort, which began under the administration of President George W. Bush, should be up to the states, he said.
"I don't want the federal government dictating to Nevada, period," Paul said. "I want to see the land owned and controlled by the states."
Paul said he offers a choice to voters because he doesn't support the status quo.
He shrugged off real estate mogul and TV star Donald Trump's endorsement of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
"I don't know why anybody talks about him," Paul said of Trump. "I don't think he has that much credibility. I don't understand why we pay attention to him."
Four years ago, Paul finished second to Romney in Nevada's GOP caucuses.
Associated Press writer Martin Griffith in Reno contributed to this report.