U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
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The sanctuary is home to Rich and Jana Wilson. The Wilsons are hoping to promote the positive aspects of managing wild horses by presenting ranch tours and educational visits.
The Deerwood Ranch was purchased in 1982 by Jim and Carla Cole, parents of Jana Wilson. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Rich and Jana Wilson moved to the family ranch to help with the cow/calf operation. Having raised their children on the ranch and leasing the family property for several years for agriculture they decided to take another agricultural path leading into the wild horses.
In 2010, there was an ad in the local paper for area ranchers to consider grazing wild horses for the BLM. They decided to apply and began filling out the paperwork. In July of 2011, they received the good news that the Deerwood Ranch was being considered for the wild horse ecosanctuary! Before long, a site visit was arranged with the BLM team of specialists. They liked what they saw and the ball was then rolling to get the ranch eligible for the horses.
After that, several steps were taken. BLM began the NEPA process and explained some of the requirements needed for fences. After the Decision Record was released, the Wilsons and the BLM reached an agreement to start receiving horses by the October. After a busy fall, replacing the woven wire fences with horse and wildlife friendly fences, taking out cattle guards and replacing them with solar powered gates, and making a few minor changes to the loading chute, the ranch was ready for the final inspection. On Oct. 11, BLM gave its final approval to all of the essential improvements and the Deerwood Ranch was ready for horses!
On October 16 the first load of horses came to live out their lives at Deerwood. As of this date there are over 200 horses living on the ranch with more yet to come. What a beautiful site!
Rich and Jana are graduates of University of Wyoming both majoring in education. They have been married for 28 years, have three children and love the ranch life and agriculture.
The Wilson’s have three kids: Mollee, Coleton and Schad. Mollee is married to Ben Gilgen they are regulars on the ranch helping out whenever needed. Ben built the solar gates. Coleton and his girlfriend Kelsey come up from Colorado occasionally on weekends and have helped with some of the fencing projects. Schad is going to college at the University of South Dakota and had a busy fall playing football and going to school. He will be around the ranch this summer to help with the horse and haying operation.
The ranch is basically divided into two parts. The upper part of the ranch will be home to the horses during the summer months when the hay meadows will be growing the hay, after the hay is harvested the horses will then move back down the lower part of the ranch. The hay is harvested in late July and early August. The ranch provides one cutting of hay. An average of 500 acres of native hay will be mowed, raked and bailed. This will be an adequate amount to feed the horses through the winter months.
The Wilsons also run the Deerwood Station guest cabin. The cabin is located at the ranch and people can rent it out for a night or month.