New Mexico governor creates wild horse refuge & proposes chimp sanctuary
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2010:
(published October 5, 2010)
ALBUQUERQUE–New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on September
17, 2010 announced a plan to use $2.9 million in federal economic
stimulus money to multiply the size of Cerrillos Hills State Park,
20 miles south of Santa Fe, more than tenfold by adding the former
Ortiz Mountain Ranch to it, turning it into the largest wild horse
sanctuary in the world.
Then, just ahead of a September 21 media conference called
to discuss the wild horse sanctuary, Richardson toured the
Alamogordo Primate Facility on Holloman Air Force Base near
Albuquerque and recommended that it should become a non-invasive
behavioral research lab.
“Richardson said his first choice would be to see Alamogordo
become a sanctuary. But he suggested the University of New Mexico
and New Mexico State University could jointly operate the facility
for behavioral research on chimpanzees,” reported Associated Press
writer Tim Korte.
Richardson acknowledged that the National Institutes of
Health has other ideas. Richardson initially discussed the
possibility of creating a chimp sanctuary with NIH officials on
August 18, 2010.
The current NIH plan is to transfer the 186 chimps currently
in Alamogordo to the Southwest National Primate Research Center in
San Antonio, Texas by the end of 2011, when a 10-year management
contract with Charles River Laboratories expires. In San Antonio
the chimps will join a colony now including 172 other chimps and
about 3,000 other non-human primates. Sixteen Alamo-gordo chimps
have already made the move.
The Alamogordo Colony are the survivors of a 288-chimp
research colony begun by the U.S. Air Force more than 50 years ago.
Long managed by the now defunct Coulston Foundation, the colony was
eventually given to Coulston. Coulston surrendered the chimps to the
NIH in 2000 in settlement of federal Animal Welfare Act violations.
Eighty-two chimps remain at another former Coulston facility
15 miles away that was sold to Save the Chimps in 2002. Save the
Chimps acquired from Coulston 266 chimpanzees and 61 monkeys, who
are being moved to the Save the Chimps sanctuary in Florida as
facilities for them are completed.
Saving America’s Mustangs founder Madeleine Pickens attended
Richardson’s September 21 media conference about the Ortiz Mountain
Ranch wild horse sanctuary. Not immediately clear, however, was
whether Ortiz Mountain Ranch would become the site of a super-sized
sanctuary that Pickens has pursued developing since November 17,
2008, when she proposed it counter to a BLM proposal to kill surplus
“The BLM has officially agreed to support going forward with
the development of the wild horse eco-sanctuary,” Pickens announced
on September 17, 2010. “We are thankful for the opportunity to
start our pilot program with 1,000 horses. We aim to get all
36,000-plus horses in holding soon after,” Pickens said. The BLM
currently has wild horses in long-term holding facilities in
Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and Iowa.
“The state will pay $1.8 million for most of the Ortiz
Mountain Ranch site, currently owned by The Nature Conservancy.
Another $1.1 million will be used to buy 640 acres and a
5,000-square-foot-plus ranch house from the heirs of Edmund and
Virginia Ball,” wrote Staci Matlock of The New Mexican. “Alicia
Nation of the New Mexico Wild Horse and Burro Association said she
researched and wrote a proposal for a wild horse sanctuary [on the
Ortiz Mountain Ranch] and gave it to Richardson in January,”
Richardson’s gubernatorial tenure is to expire this year.
His wild horse sanctuary plan was criticized by both candidates to
succeed him, Democrat Diane Denish, who has been lieutenant
governor throughout Richardson’s two terms as governor, and
Republican Susana Martinez.
The sanctuary plan “must clear a final hurdle–approval from
the State Board of Finance,” reported Barry Massey of Associated
Press. “However,” assessed Massey, “Richardson should be able to
push the deal through because he serves as the board’s president and
appoints a majority of its members.”
New Mexico Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Department
secretary Jim Noel told media that how much of the Ortiz Mountain
Ranch will actually be set aside for wild horses has yet to be
decided, and that developing a master plan for the project will take
12 to 16 months. “Also unanswered is how many wild horses will be
kept at the property,” wrote Massey. “Other questions include where
the horses will come from, the yearly cost to operate the preserve
and how the state will control the herd’s growth. Richardson
suggested the state will operate a wild horse adoption center,”
Bureau of Land Management spokesperson Hans Stuart told
Massey that the state had informally discussed obtaining a breeding
population of horses for the sanctuary. This would require having
the BLM prepare an environmental impact statement, provide an
opportunity for public comment, and set a limit on how many horses
the sanctuary could keep. The BLM estimates that 38,000 remain on
the range in 10 western states. Only about 500, in three bands,
are on federal lands in New Mexico. The BLM contends that is twice
Richardson, whose political future is unclear, has had a
mixed record on animal issues. Elected governor in 2002 after
reportedly pledging that he would not ban cockfighting, Richardson
in January 2006 unsuccessfully offered incentives worth $750,000 to
try to lure the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association headquarters
from Colorado to New Mexico; pledged $12 million in state funding
for a top-level rodeo arena; and pledged an additional $3 million in
renovation funding for local rodeo arenas.
In March 2007 Richardson signed a bill to ban cockfighting,
but boasted in July 2007 of shooting an oryx on media magnate Ted
Turner’s Armendaris Ranch in New Mexico, and heavily advertised his
political aspirations at the 2007 National Rodeo Finals.
After an unsuccessful run for the 2008 Democratic
presidential nomination, and withdrawing from consideration for
appointment as Secretary of Commerce in President Barack Obama’s
cabinet, Richardson in April 2009 signed a bill to ban gassing dogs