About the Sanctuary

Horse Sanctuary Q & A

1. Why are there over 30,000 Wild Horses in holding facilities and not Home on the Range?

 

Most of the wild horses and burros on public rangelands are managed by the Bureau of Land Management BLM which is managed by multiple use mandates, and is a branch of the Department of the Interior. These public rangelands are located in grazing areas that are controlled by private land and water rights. In stressful times, due to drought or other environmental factors, the BLM has no choice but to remove animals from the public rangelands while livestock producers will move their animals to private lands with water and high forage productivity within these grazing areas. BLM is restricted in managing Wild Horses and Burros on public rangelands because the water and irrigated pastures in these areas are private property. Also, the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 prohibits the relocation of these animals to other public rangeland where they were not found at the passage of this Act.

The Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service are charged to protect, manage, and control wild horses and burros under the authority of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act to ensure healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands. These federal agencies attempt to manage wild horses and burros as part of their multiple-use mission under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976.

BLM’s key challenge in its wild horse and burro program is to maintain the appropriate management level of approximately 27,300 animals on rangelands set aside in 1971 for horses and burros in the West. That is the number of free-roaming horses and burros the Bureau determined can roam on BLM-managed lands in balance with other uses, such as livestock and wildlife grazing.

As of 2008, there were more than 33,000 wild horses and burros roaming on BLM-managed lands, a population that exceeds the BLM appropriate management level by some 5,700 animals. Removed from their natural homes are more than 35,000 additional wild horses and burros held in corrals (short-term holding: STH) and private pastures (long-term holding: LTH).

Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the agencies remove thousands of animals from their designated rangelands each year to ensure herd sizes are consistent with the land’s capacity to support them and adequate feed is available for livestock and wildlife which share these designated lands. From 2001 to 2008, the BLM removed more than 79,000 wild horses and burros from their rangelands while placing only 47,000 into private care through adoption.

The dilemma of excess horses became impossible for the BLM to solve when the existing long-term holding private pastures were filled to capacity and no additional private land pastures were found. Now, horses and burros are kept in corrals with no solution to their plight and have struck up a lot of controversy all over the nation with animal advocates. In 2008, the cost of holding these animals in corrals exceeded $27 million, accounting for three-fourths of the 2008 enacted funding level of $36.2 million for the total wild horse and burro program. If current removal and holding practices continue, annual funding for the total wild horse and burro program, funded by American Taxpayers, would rise to approximately $85 million by 2012, and an estimated additional 20,000 horses will be stood up in pens.

With no strategy to relocate these excess animals to a permanent home, the BLM just keeps putting gathered animals into more and more corrals year after year. The cost of holding these animals continues to increase annually and money allocated for proper herd management instead goes to feeding captive animals. With inappropriate use of herd management money, to ensure herd sizes are consistent with the land’s capacity to support them, the BLM now irresponsibly allows the herds to continue to grow so more horses will eventually be captured and put into corrals. So, every year more and more taxpayer dollars go into feeding penned up horses and less and less taxpayer dollars are used for rangeland herd management.

2. Why do we need a Private Foundation to save Wild Horses and Burros?

 

Western rangelands have had a violent history of range wars in which whoever controlled the water controlled the adjacent federal grazing lands which is the BLM lands. The only practical solution to finding an appropriate permanent home for the excess horses is for a Private Foundation which owns these private water rights and irrigated pastures, in cooperation with BLM, operate a very large ranch. A public/private ranch can ensure a healthy herd thriving on healthy rangelands.

The Saving America’s Mustangs (Foundation) offered the federal government such a proposal to resolve their dilemma of excess horses solve their administrative challenges and provide a permanent home for these horses.

Under the proposal, the Foundation would purchase and operate a ranch for the sole purpose of providing proper care and a perpetual home for the horses. This ranch would have yearlong grazing capability, federal and private land for management flexibility, sufficient private land for hay production for at least 20,000 head during grave times (drought, deep snow, and rangeland fire), adequate water and sufficient size to support a minimum herd of this size.

The Foundation would enter into a contract or cooperative agreement, as already stipulated in the Wild Horse and Burro Act, with the Secretary of Interior to relocate the 9,000 wild horses currently held in short term holding corrals to the ranch, and to accept future non-adopted wild horses. The total population of horses on the ranch would be determined by its carrying capacity (approximately 20,000 to 30,000 head). The horse population would be managed as a non reproductive herd.

The Foundation will be able to take an additional 2,000 to 4,000 animals annually from future government wild horse gathers. With abundant forage, water, and acreage will provide for a near normal life expectancy of wild horses on the ranch. In turn, there will be no further need for BLM utilizing holding pens to hold horses for years is eliminated. This is good for the government having a readily available permanent home for the horses which will ensure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands. Taxpayers will save tens of millions annually.

3. Why does the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971 need to be amended to save Wild Horses and Burros?

This Act needs to be amended to ensure that excess wild horse and burros can be provided long-term care on western rangelands including public and private lands. The Act prohibits moving these animals to other public rangeland where they were not found at the passage of the Act. Congress and the Secretary of Interior should insist these excess wild horses and burros be allowed to freely roam on the range instead of be confined in corrals.

The Wild Horse and Burro Act need amended. Section 10 of the Wild Horse and Burro Act states: “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the Secretary to relocate wild free-roaming horses or burros to areas of the public lands where they do not presently exist.”; An amendment to exempt this provision would allow the Secretary to relocate wild horses to suitable ranches with public and private lands. Relocation should be authorized only if the Secretary enters into a Cooperative Agreement to form a partnership using the private and public lands to provide for a permanent home for horses.

Amazingly, the Wild Horse and Burro Act already states: “The Secretary is authorized to enter into cooperative agreements with other landowners and with the State and local governmental agencies and may issue such regulations as he deems necessary for the furtherance of the purposes of this Act.”; An amendment will allow the Secretary to enter into a Cooperative Agreement using both private and public lands for permanent protection, management, and control of excess non-reproductive wild horse herds.

The Cooperative Agreement would guarantee:

  • (a) Public lands would be administered by BLM for permanent protection, management, and care of excess wild horses.
  • (b) Grazing capacity on public lands shall be determined by the agency using scientific fundamentals of healthy rangelands.
  • (c) The agency can authorize the periods of use and temporary grazing use on adjacent public grazing allotments with the consent of adjacent livestock operators.
  • (d) Appropriated funds would be provided for maintenance of range improvements on public lands.
  • (e) The fiduciary responsibilities of the federal government for wild horses on the Foundation ranch are stipulated.
  • (f) Appropriate due diligence is conducted to qualify applicants and ranches.

The Wild Horse and Burro Act amendment needs to define the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government for their horses. Short- term holding contracts currently cost taxpayers $5.75 per day per horse for feeding and watering horses. An amendment will allow the Secretary to enter into an agreement for permanent protection, management, and care of excess non reproductive wild horse herds at a substantially lower cost.

4. What can you do to save these excess 30,000 Wild Horses and Burros held in holding facilities?

Write letters to your Senators and Congressmen supporting an amendment to the Wild Horse and Burro Act. Ask them to provide authority to the Secretary of Interior to relocate excess wild horses to exclusive horse ranches containing public land. Ask them to provide adequate funding through cooperative agreements between the Secretary and private Foundations for permanent protection, management, and care of wild horses removed from their homes on the range. Each Take Action button on our homepage will send an email to your state’s representative and President Obama.

5. Why do we need to create a Wild Horse Sanctuary?

The purpose of the Sanctuary is to use private and federal lands to provide long-term care and permanent protection for non-adopted wild horses and burros that have been removed from federal rangelands. Currently over 9,000 of these wild animals are rounded up off the range by low-flying helicopters contracted by the BLM and are then confined in pens year after year. They are provided water and feed, but no shade, no room to roam, no escape from the heat or cold by moving to the other side of the mountain, and no clean spot to roll.

The federal government needs the support of private rangelands to move these animals to a safe and clean environment.

6. Can the Saving America’s Mustangs Ranch be managed without negative environmental impacts?

Rangeland and Animal Husbandry professionals will be on staff to ensure animal and rangeland health are protected, on both private and federal lands with additional oversight from the appropriate federal land management authority.

The land use planning process for federal lands already includes environmental concerns and wildlife needs into their grazing program. The private lands on the Ranch currently provide most of the outdoor recreation (hunting and fishing) opportunities for this area and an important revenue stream for the ranch. The Saving America’s Mustangs Ranch plans to enhance these recreation opportunities and revenue streams through wildlife habitat improvements on private lands.

Private lands with water rights on the Ranch offer the flexibility with intensive agricultural practices to provide forage for over 30,000 horses, if for some emergency; forage is not available on the open rangeland.

7. How many wild horses can the Saving America’s Mustangs Ranch support?

Two thirds of the Ranch is high summer range and one third of the ranch is low winter range combined with a large farming operation which provide ample year around forage.

A river runs through the middle of the ranch with several large reservoirs and many hundreds of springs to provide abundant water for forage production, horses and wildlife.

The stocking level of horses will be phased in over time, starting with about 10,000 animals and increasing about 4,000 animals per year until the appropriate stocking rate is reached. This phase-in of stocking is necessary for additional forage production projects to come on line.

The maximum number of horses the ranch can support is near 30,000. (Please see Addendum)

8. How can you keep 30,000 head of wild horses from escaping the Ranch?

The Ranch boundary is securely fenced. Fenced railroad & highway right-of-ways are major portions of the boundary. The fenced boundary in the high country would not be pressured by large numbers of horses. The high country boundary fences may be damaged as a result of winter snow and ice, but would be inspected and repaired prior to the horses returning to the high country each season. Agreements would be honored to ensure a good neighbor policy.

Cattleguards would be installed on all roads that access through the ranch boundary.

9. What kind of conflicts may exist between wildlife and wild horses on the Saving America’s Mustangs Ranch?

Very little conflict is anticipated. Wild horses have roamed tens of millions of acres in the West for hundreds of years without conflict with other animals native to North America.

Water sources are numerous on the ranch so there is no concern of horses limiting the availability of water for wildlife species.

Open spaces are plentiful for horses and wildlife in the spring, summer, and fall, but limited in the winter. The Saving America’s Mustangs Ranch is very fortunate to have one third of the ranch as winter range, including the hay meadows and irrigated fields. Most of the winter range is private land which will accommodate both horses and wildlife needs during the harsh winters of major snow events and sub zero weather. Elk, deer, and horses will concentrate on the private land winter range during these major winter events, which is critical to their survival.

10. Will the federal government acquire any private lands within the ranch if the foundation ceases to exist?

If the Ranch ever ceases to be used as a wild horse eco-sanctuary, the private land will remain private and the federal lands within the ranch will remain federal and continue to be managed for multiple use purposes.

The Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary intends to be a good neighbor by being open and accessible, ensuring fences are maintained and the horses don’t escape, and allow public access to the ranch.

The foundation is being created to protect and care for the wild horses and to allow citizens from around the world to come to the ranch to see thousands of free roaming wild horses. To achieve these goals, the Foundation will be active in the community promoting eco-tourism, hire within the local area, which will stimulate the economy in Nevada, and have open communication the adjoining ranches to ensure strong fences are maintained and horses are contained to their own million acre ranch.

11. Could there be impacts to federal land users, adjacent land owners, local communities, county, or state government by changing use from cattle to horses on the Saving America’s Mustangs Ranch?

Legitimate negative impacts are hard to find because:

  • (a) BLM lands used as a wild horse eco-sanctuary do not preclude any valid existing rights or public land laws for existing land uses.
  • (b) Federal water rights are not reserved on BLM lands used as a wild horse eco-sanctuary.
  • (c) The authority of Nevada Department of Wildlife is not precluded on BLM lands used as a wild horse sanctuary.
  • (d) The Foundation will be a non-profit agricultural business which would employ many businesses and personnel knowledgeable in agricultural practices associated with forage production and animal husbandry.
  • (e) The Foundation will always maintain its legal rights to private property or options to return to a traditional livestock business or any other private business venture when the opportunity arrives.
  • (f) A goal of the Foundation is to preserve the Western Heritage Culture.
  • The biggest impact of the Ranch to its neighbors and surrounding communities is the attraction of perhaps a million and half visitors to Northeast Nevada per year. These visitors may be accommodated in the nearby communities and business leaders may need time for planning and implementation to accommodate the influx of visitors.

12. Why do taxpayers have to pay the Foundation to care for and protect wild horses relocated from government pens to the ranch?

Costs to the American taxpayer over the next decade are approximately $1 billion dollars if nothing changes. The Saving America’s Mustangs Foundation will save taxpayers approximately $700 to $800 million dollars with this plan.

The foundation costs are much lower than the government program, but the foundation still needs money to manage the ranch, the farm, repair the fences, install new irrigation, rebuild homes for the help, and care for the horses.

13. Why not acquire a small ranch which can support between 500 to 1,000 horses where the forage is more plentiful and the overall ranch price is lower so the ranch could be managed without government funding?

The selected ranch is the most acceptable for the horses needs. It has the capacity to hold all the horses on private land during emergency situations. It has sufficient size to accommodate over 30,000 wild horses currently held captive in pens. It has ample forage and open space to accommodate thousands of additional animals removed from federal rangeland for years to come. It saves the taxpayers millions of dollars annually.

14. Are there other benefits the Foundation proposal provides the government?

The Foundation provides the government with: (1) abundant long term capacity for horses at about the same cost, $500 per year per horse, as its current long term holding facilities, (2) significant savings considering the cost of short-term holding is about $2000 per year per horse, (3) an alternative to attempting to locate more long term holding capacity on private lands through standard contracting procedures and (4) reduced shipping cost of relocating horses from western states to central states.

15. Why does BLM have so many horses in Short Term Holding?

With economic down turn the public is less interested in adopting wild horses. BLM typically adopts about half the animals they gather each year.

BLM cannot find interested parties to enter into long term contracts to care for the horses.

BLM removes thousands of wild horses annually to protect rangeland vegetation from overgrazing by wildlife, cattle and wild horses.

16. Does it make sense that the BLM relocate excess wild horses to other federal and private lands which has capacity for wild horses, if the WH&BA is amended to provide the Secretary of Interior this authority?

Yes. If directed by the Secretary of Interior the BLM can enter into cooperative agreements for an individual or organization to care for and protect the wild horses.

17. How can the federal government be assured that the foundation is capable of managing and caring for the thousands of horses they will receive and provide long term health of both the horses and the rangeland?

The Foundation expects the same level of agency professional oversight the federal government provides for other lands it manages. The Foundation expects to enter into a contract with the government whereby it provides information on the experience of its personnel, the current carrying capacity of the ranch, the proposed increased carrying capacity, inspection of fences, waters, working facilities, and accurate count and condition of horses. We expect similar contract stipulations that the government requires of other ranches caring for wild horses on private land.

18. What kinds of attractions will the Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary provide for visitors?

The wild horse eco-sanctuary will be a patriotic place designed for people of all ages to come and see their land; a place that will show how the American West came to be and why the wild horse is such an integral part to our American history and heritage. Visitors will have an opportunity to stay on the land, see the mustangs roaming freely, and appreciate their beautiful natural habitat like they never have before.

There will be electronic classrooms, complete with educators and educational seminars about the wild horses and Native American history. Guided hikes through the terrain, camping in teepees, and special campfires with musical storytelling will be just some of the many fun activities.

We will also have creative writing, photography, and ecology workshops that guests can sign up for. Eventually, we will create a farm to grow organic fruits and vegetables for guests and the animals, as well as teach children how to take care of their environment.

There will be plenty of eco-friendly lodging, such as teepees and cabins. We also intend to accommodate visitors with special needs and invite groups to use our facilities. There will be covered wagon day trips to see the mustangs, and it will surely be a world class experience that will be remembered and shared long after the stay.

19. Sanctuary Q&A

From the inception of this project in 2008, it has been the goal of SAM to provide sanctuary to as many of America’s Mustangs on their natural habitat as possible. Our goal has not changed. What we have come to realize, however, is by only focusing on acquiring properties that are large enough to sustain herds in numbers upwards of 5 and 10 thousand nothing was getting resolved. That being said, the need to “start somewhere”; became apparent and that somewhere is the Spruce Mountain Ranch.

Sprawling over nearly 550,000 acres, the Spruce, as we call it, consists of 10,965 active AUM’s. Our hope is that through range/water improvements and good management practices, it should be able to comfortably accommodate approximately 1,000 horses. It may be decided to initially start with fewer and grow the herd size to ensure that the horses and resident wildlife flourish.

We are scheduled to close this year on an additional ranch that will allow us to expand that number, grow hay, and build essential improvements to care for the horses in the event of a catastrophic fire, as well as to provide access and amenities that are crucial for the public’s enjoyment of this “living museum.”

This is merely the beginning. We are going to start the Pilot Program with the BLM. This is the same program as we have detailed below, but on a smaller scale. As we move forward, we can take care of all the other issues with the mustangs in holding. Our goal is to continue work diligently to do the right thing for the mustangs and the American public. As always, we appreciate your support.

- Saving America’s Mustangs Foundation