Madeleine Pickens is a very determined woman and wild mustangs are one-step closer to being safe because of it. Last week the Bureau of Land Management selected her “Mustang Monument Preserve” for an environmental review, which could be the final stage in getting her refuge for wild horses approved.
In 2010 Pickens, who has been fighting on behalf of wild horses for the past seven years, brought a plan to the Bureau of Land Management for an eco-sanctuary to be built in Nevada for the horses rounded up by the agency. After having previous proposals rejected, Pickens and her nonprofit, Saving America’s Mustang foundation, incorporated all of the government’s requirements into the projected called “Mustang Monument Preserve.” It was the only proposal submitted to BLM that met all of the requirements.
Mustang Monument will be located on a 14,000-acre ranch outside of Elko in northeastern Nevada. It will allow the horses to graze on 530,000 acres of BLM land instead of being corralled in government holding facilities or sold at auctions for slaughter. Pickens bought the ranch and the grazing rights to the land.
Mustang Monument will not only protect the wild horses, it will also be open to the public so thousands of visitors each year can see the animals up close and learn about their contribution to the history of the western United States.
The sanctuary will be about half the size of Rhode Island and be home to 900-1,000 horses.
“It’s exciting,” said Pickens. “We plan to entertain people and let them see what wild horses are like. This is not your average dude ranch.”
Under the plan, the horses will remain under the ownership of BLM and allowed to graze on the public land as long as Pickens maintains the land, water wells and fencing on the property and manages the horses.
BLM will contribute money for the care of the horses at a cost of what they currently incur to keep the animals in the holding facilities.
Pickens thanked the thousands of people who gave their support for the project and she thanked BLM staff for their hard work in fine-tuning the plan.
“While we may not have always agreed on every fine point during our early work, I think we always knew we were breaking new ground and moving in the direction of new horizons where the care and management of the nation’s wild horses are concerned,” said Pickens.
The city of Wells, where the sanctuary will be built has welcomed the project. Ranchers and county officials in nearby Elko strongly oppose it. They believe public land should be used for grazing cattle and sheep and think the nonprofit sanctuary would be better used as a “profitable cattle ranch” that contributes toward county revenue.
Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl said, “The taxpayers are going to be compensating Madeleine Pickens for taking care of horses. If we start taking ranges away and replacing those with wild horse sanctuaries, it sets a really bad precedent.”
J.J. Goicoechea, president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association told the Las Vegas Review Journal that he is concerned the eco-sanctuary will disturb the land for migratory animals such as deer mule and antelope. He thinks it will interfere with those who hunt animals in the area.
Both men are optimistic that BLM will not give their final approval for the sanctuary.
However, Mustang Monument comes at a time when BLM is trying to control the costs of their Wild Horse and Burro Program. They are seeking new strategies and partnerships with private groups, like the eco-sanctuary.
All involved agree there is a lot of work ahead of them and the study may take up to two years to complete.
But even if BLM doesn’t give their blessing for the sanctuary, Pickens plans to open the first phase of Mustang Monument by late spring 2013. She will move the 550 wild horses she personally rescued from BLM roundups and house them on the 14,000-acre privately owned ranch.
She said this about the sanctuary, “I’m putting it there for the horses to have a safe place. It will be there long after I’m gone.”
Photo Credit: Mariachily