BLM Crushes Pickens’ Plans for Wild Horse Sanctuary

Madeleine Pickens’ proposal to create an eco-sanctuary for wild horses currently languishing in holding facilities on her 14,000-acre Spruce Ranch and adjoining 4,000-acre Warm Creek Ranch in Nevada was rejected by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Friday.

According to Bob Abbey, director of the BLM, Pickens’ plan would not have saved taxpayer money, or provided enough water and forage to sustain the horses. He also said that despite requests from the BLM, they never received “a formal or detailed proposal so that the BLM can properly analyze and determine its feasibility.”

Considering the BLM has about 40,000 horses in holding facilities that it can’t afford to care for and the fact that they’re continuing with roundups and supporting welfare ranching, what they know about feasibility would probably fit on the head of a pin. Despite the setback Pickens isn’t giving up. 

“I’m going to keep working with the BLM,” she told the AP. “It’s like your children. You just have to keep working with them until they get it right. To me, it’s sad we don’t have the leadership to fix the issue of these poor American mustangs.”

It is sad, isn’t it.

Pickens’ first proposed the idea of a sanctuary in 2008. Her proposal was denied on the grounds that it would be placed on land where there were no wild horses when the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act was established in 1971. When that issue was rectified, the BLM came up with more sniveling excuses about why it wouldn’t work. 

According to Abbey, the latest proposal “would require an environmental analysis to transfer title of wild horses to her and change the class of livestock authorized on several Nevada grazing allotments from cattle to horses. Among other reasons, existing law also would need to be changed to give the BLM the authority to reimburse a private party for grazing wild horses.” 

Somehow, confusion about how many horses were supposed to be placed in the sanctuary also played into the proposal’s rejection. 

“I’m puzzled by his statement to the media that my proposal seeks to place 10,000 horses on the Spruce Ranch, site of the future eco-sanctuary. In fact, our most recent proposal to the BLM was for approximately 1,000 horses on the approximately over half a million acres encompassed by the Spruce. This was made clear in numerous meetings with the BLM, and is explained on our website as well,” said Pickens. 

Either Abbey can’t count zeros, or he’s a blatant liar.  

In regards to savings, Pickens sanctuary would receive a stipend of $500 per horse. While the BLM estimates that they only spend $475 per horse now, Pickens’ estimates on current costs come out to be more like $2500 per horse in holding facilities. 

The BLM also doesn’t like to mention that the federal government spends at least $144 million each year managing private livestock grazing on federal public lands, while collecting only $21 million in grazing fees, according to a 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office. That’s a net loss of about $123 million per year. Others estimate the cost to be as much as $500 million or more.

“I don’t think the BLM quite grasps that our country is in a financial emergency,” said Pickens. “You can’t keep spending the money they do to put horses in holding. They have a program that doesn’t work, and they’re trying to save face.”

Wait. It gets worse. An investigation from the Grass Roots Horse found more disturbing information.  

It is noticeable that in the 2007 – 2012 Strategic Plan for the Department of Interior there is no mention of the wild horses or burros at all, even where the plan lists specific programs administered by the BLM. This carries on throughout the Strategic Plan for 2011 – 2016 where the only mention of the Wild Horse and Burro Program is on page 8, under BLM programs, listed after Renewable and Conventional Energy and Mineral Development, Forestry Management and Timber and Biomass Production.

“I was thinking of all the places BLM/DOI could hide things in a budget and of course the management of lands and resources came to mind.” said Maureen VanDerStad of Grass Roots Horse. “Hidden within 600 pages of the FY 2011 DOI Budget Justifications were clues hidden among the layers of what I would call deliberate and willful actions by these agencies to mislead Congress and the American people as to their true intentions, which is to get what they want at all costs.”

Within the FY2011 Budget Justification set forth by DOI/BLM, regarding the Wild Horse and Burro Program and statistics there are many fallacies and untruths, many of which are found, not in the section called Reforming the Wild Horse and Burro Program but in the Management of Lands and Resources, in various sub activity sections.

In Section DH-38 of DOI budget 2011 in a segment called Treasured Landscapes, is the news that Ken Salazar has achieved his goal of getting millions of dollars to fund what is known as his “Salazoo Plan” created ostensibly to bring relief to the BLM’s failed Wild Horse and Burro Program.

Bottom line there is that the program is failing horses and burros because no one wants them on the land. 

Pickens also stated in her response that “During our three years of work, BLM officials at every level acknowledged in meetings with me that the eco-sanctuary plan saves the taxpayers money.”

The kicker here? After three years of working on plans to save these horses Abbey didn’t even have the spine to reject the plan in person. Pickens found out when she read the news. What a bunch of classy gentlemen we have running the BLM, eh? 

Some comments have appeared on the White House’s live Facebook page. Maybe President Obama would like to address why we are continuing to pay millions of dollars for the BLM’s actions, lack of ethics and transparency, incompetence and fiscal irresponsibility during the upcoming State of the Union. 



barbara b.

The animals need a sanctuary, stop roundups now!!!!!!

Lisa S.
Lisa S.6 years ago

It truly is frustrating and I MUST commend Ms. Pickens on her tenacity! KEEP FIGHTING!!! I have called, and written about this and will continue to do so, I agree, these "men" should be fired for their incompetence and mismanagement! To say that this sanctuary wouldn't work and that it's costing taxpayers MORE money, GET "REAL"!!! Where is the COMMON SENSE in Government these days?? Talk about WASTE!! Balancing the budget, we can certainly start by DEFUNDING BLM, BUT NO, "they" go after Planned Parenthood, Women's Health rights, Food & Nutrition programs, Unions, Education! WOW!!!! These "men" have NO morals, NO conscience! NO one should vote for them in 2012! GOD help us if anyone does! WHAT ARE THEY THINKING??

Judy Wilson

Although I don't come from the USA, I am commenting as a world citizen concerned for the welfare of all animals. I did not know anything of the politics behind this issue until I read this article, so thank you for sharing this information. These round-ups by helicopters, etc. are horrendous and I wish all of you good luck on lobbying your president and other political entities for the sake of these beautiful and historically important creatures. I also am appalled at the way that Ms. Pickens received the answer. Cowardly.

Margaret Paddock
M A Paddock7 years ago

As far as I am concerned the BLM should be disbanded. They serve no good purpose from what I know about their work in several areas. If not all those in charged should be fired and put in some people who really care about the land and animals.
We all need to keep writing our representatives and let them know how dissatisfied we are with the BLM.

Diane L.
Diane L7 years ago

Yes, Terrie B.! You're exactly right. The BLM is in the pockets of the cattle ranchers and both Abbey and Ken Salazar are their puppets. Salazar needs to be fired. It makes about as much sense to imply the horses are better off in holding pens, being half-starved and abused rather than allow Pickens to rescue them as it does to round them up in the first place when it's being done at taxpayer expense and there is no need.

Of course, now, we're not going to fund Planned Parenthood (at G.O.P. voting), fund other needed programs, but the round-ups go on.........after all, the money paid by the cattle ranchers must be more than is being spent!

Rebecca C.
Rebecca Carlson7 years ago

It's ridiculous to keep wild animals in holding pens for the rest of their lives! Why can't they proviide a sanctuary for the ones that have been round up? Seriously!

Claire A.
Claire Allen7 years ago

I hope the woman keeps trying until the whole thing is sorted.

Elaine W.
Elaine W7 years ago

Wrong decision. Well said Terry btw.

Terrie B.
Terrie B.7 years ago

First of all It makes me boiling mad that the Bush admin overturned the banning of helicopters in the round-ups. Wild Horse Annie worked her entire life to get humane treatment for the wild horses!!! Bastards!!! Secondly, this is no surprise that the BLM denied her proposal. The BLM was set up by the beef industry. THIS IS PUBLIC LAND!!!!! MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD ON THIS ISSUE!!!

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle7 years ago

Just one more example of agencies that are in love with their power and the ranchers' needs. Here is a woman, ready to solve a problem, and they nitpick until the horses die. I'm SOOOO impressed with the BLM.