Madeleine Pickens buys 14,000 acres for her long-promised wild horse sanctuary
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2010:
(Actual press date November 3.)
RENO–Madeleine Pickens, owner of the Del Mar Country Club
in Rancho Santa Fe, California, and wife of Texas oil billionaire
T. Boone Pickens, in early October 2010 purchased the 14,000-acre
Spruce Ranch, 70 miles east of Elko, Nevada, as proposed home for
many of the 36,000 wild horses presently kept in Bureau of Land
Management holding facilities. Pickens’ plan is reportedly to start
with 1,000 horses, adding more as the securely fenced portion of the
Spruce Ranch is expanded to keep horses inside, and as facilities
are built to accommodate visitors.
“Pickens purchased the ranch, which she plans to rename the
Mustang Monument preserve, for an undisclosed price. The property
comes with grazing rights on 540,000 acres of public land,” reported
Associated Press writer Martin Griffith. “Pickens also is
negotiating to buy an adjoining 4,000-acre ranch that has grazing
rights for 24,000 acres of public land,” Griffith added.
Pickens in November 2008 proposed starting a quasi-wild
mega-sized sanctuary for horses removed from public lands, but the
Bureau of Land Management rejected her first suggested site because
it was not wild horse habitat when the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and
Burros Act was enacted in 1971. The Nevada site, however, is close
to the largest wild horse herds in the U.S.
“I’m sure, like with any new project, this will take us a
little time,” Pickens posted in a web site message to supporters.
“However,” she said, “we are working tirelessly to get this
Pickens’ land buy came about two weeks after she attended a
press conference at which New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson
discussed details of a plan to use $2.9 million in federal economic
stimulus money to expand Cerrillos Hills State Park, 20 miles south
of Santa Fe, by adding the former Ortiz Mount-ain Ranch to it and
turning it into the largest wild horse sanctuary in the world.
The BLM estimates that there are currently 38,000 wild horses
left on the range in 10 western states.
Western ranchers and hunters have long sought wild horse
removals, seeing the horses as competitors with cattle, sheep,
elk, and wild bighorn sheep for grass and water. Opposition to the
presence of wild horses has also come recently from conservationists
who consider horses an invasive species–although modern horses
evolved millions of years ago in what is now the U.S. west, and were
apparently extinct in North America for only about 10,000 years
before being reintroduced by Spanish invaders about 500 years ago.