- The BLM is committed to improving the management of the Wild Horse and Burro Program by working together with people and organizations that care about these iconic symbols of the West. However, recent inaccurate information from one such organization has been widely distributed, and the BLM would like to set the record straight.
- The BLM has been working with the Saving America’s Mustangs Foundation, founded by Madeleine Pickens, for more than two years in an attempt to place wild horses gathered from Western public rangelands into a private sanctuary. Some of the information distributed in the Foundation’s recent media campaign requires some clarification and context; other information that is being distributed is just plain false.
- The Foundation has stated that the BLM will spend $85 million to remove 10,000 wild horses from public lands this year. This is not true. The BLM’s Fiscal Year 2010 total budget for the program was $65 million, of which $37 million went to caring for animals in short- and long-term holding facilities, $7.7 million went for gathering animals to keep the animals and the range healthy, and $6.8 million went for adopting out wild horses and burros to the public. The requested 2011 budget for the program is $75 million. However, under the existing Continuing Resolution, funding for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro program remains at the FY 2010 level.
- BLM managers, staff, and specialists have invested substantial time to accommodate and consider ongoing and evolving ideas from the Foundation. However, despite numerous requests from the BLM, the Foundation has not provided a formal and detailed proposal so that the BLM can properly analyze and determine its feasibility. This would be required from any individual or group proposing ideas involving public funds, public lands, and wild horses and burros.
- The Foundation has indicated that it will be prepared to provide holding services on land in Nevada by next fall and that it would result in a “significant cost savings.” Without a written, detailed proposal, the BLM cannot determine whether this is true. However, Mrs. Pickens in her prospectus has suggested a stipend of $500 (adjusted to inflation) per horse, per year, for the life of each animal. This would exceed the BLM’s existing cost per animal in long-term holding of $475 per year. Her prospectus, as presented, does not demonstrate an obvious cost savings to the American taxpayer.
- The Foundation has asked the BLM to postpone an upcoming Nevada wild horse gather in the Antelope Complex Herd Management Area until its facility is built. In our December 17, 2010, response, we explained that the number of wild horses in this area is significantly above the capacity of the range’s ability to provide adequate forage and water to sustain them. If we postpone the gather until the Saving America’s Mustangs Foundation completes a facility, the BLM may well face having to conduct an emergency gather – more costly and potentially more difficult for the horses, which would likely be weakened by a lack of water and forage.
- The Foundation’s information states that 30,000 wild horses remain on public lands. The BLM’s census numbers put the wild horse and burro population at more than 38,000, according to the agency’s latest official count.
Actions needed to move forward with the Saving America’s Mustangs idea
- To implement the Foundation’s concept as presented, under existing law and regulations, the BLM would be required to transfer title of wild horses through sale or adoption to Mrs. Pickens and change the class of livestock authorized on several Nevada allotments from cattle to horses. This would require a land-use plan amendment and additional site-specific environmental analysis (under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA). All such environmental documents require a period for public review and comment before being finalized.
- Existing law would need to be changed. The BLM does not have the legal authority to reimburse a private party for grazing titled horses (i.e., formerly government-owned horses now privately held) on either public or deeded land; reimburse a private party to graze untitled (that is, still government-owned) wild horses on public lands; or manage wild horses on public lands outside Herd Areas that were legislatively created in 1971.
- To ensure the American taxpayer receives fair value, the Saving America’s Mustangs Foundation would need to submit a formal proposal in response to a BLM solicitation that would be open to the public for private-partner preserves. The BLM is developing such a solicitation.
- The BLM is concerned that in some of the areas proposed for the Nevada sanctuary, forage and water exist to support a maximum of 970 wild horses, far below the 10,000 the Foundation has indicated it would like to support.
Prospectus Submitted to the BLM by Madeleine Pickens for Wild Horse Sanctuary