Pickens’ Wild Horse Sanctuary Plans Advance


The following article is from the Las Vegas Journal:

The Bureau of Land Management on Thursday approved launching an environmental assessment of Madeleine Pickens’ proposed eco-sanctuary for wild horses in northeastern Nevada, taking the first step toward possible approval of the unique public-private project to protect mustangs.

The BLM decision comes several years after the wife of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens first proposed holding wild horses on public and private land that she had purchased near Wells, a small town at the juncture of U.S. Highway 93 and Interstate 80, about 50 miles east of Elko.

Under the proposal, at least 900 mustangs would roam 530,000 acres of BLM-managed public land where Pickens bought grazing rights on the Spruce allotment. The eco-sanctuary also would include about 14,000 acres of private land she purchased as a base property for the project.

Pickens’ proposal submitted by her nonprofit Saving America’s Mustang organization was the only one that met BLM criteria for a public-private wild horse eco-sanctuary, said the federal agency, which last year put out a formal request for eco-sanctuary proposals nationwide.

The environmental assessment could take as long as two years to measure the “environmental, economic, social” and other effects on the land and community, the BLM said.

If approved, the agency would enter into a partnership with Pickens’ nonprofit group and provide federal funding to help support the wild horses at a cost no higher than what the BLM spends to keep mustangs in long-term holding pastures in the Midwest, or $475 per horse per year.

“The selection of SAM’s proposal for environmental analysis furthers our overall effort to improve management and control costs of the Wild Horse and Burro Program,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey.

Pickens named her eco-sanctuary the “Mustang Monument.” She plans to allow tourists to come and view the wild horses. She also plans to build an educational center for visitors that would teach children and adults about America’s heritage as well as the role mustangs played. She said visitors could sleep in teepees on the range and take covered-wagon rides along the routes used to settle the West.

“My dream is starting to come true,” Pickens told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last year as it appeared her eco-sanctuary might go forward despite years of red tape and objections from local ranchers. “I want it to come true for the American people, for everybody to see these incredible horses.”

The city of Wells has welcomed the project, while Elko County officials and local ranchers have objected to using public lands for anything other than for grazing cattle and sheep.

Under a 1971 federal law, the BLM is charged with protecting the nation’s remaining wild horse herds, which are roaming 10 Western states. About 38,5000 mustangs are estimated to be running wild in special “management areas” of public land with about half in Nevada.

The BLM has more than 47,000 wild horses in short- or long-term holding facilities after rounding up the mustangs because the agency determined there were too many on public lands doing environmental damage and using too many public water and grazing resources.

Holding costs accounted for $35.7 million of the BLM wild horse program’s $75.8 million annual budget, or 47 percent. The government is seeking to reduce those costs by approving eco-sanctuary projects on public and private lands, which could eventually save taxpayer dollars.

Source:  Las Vegas Journal

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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