Madeline Pickens had no “PLAN” when she opened her mouth on ideas to save the American West most prize possession. Our wild horses and burros. She simply thought that if it was her idea the American public would jump on the wagon and ride. There are many non-profits who have dreams of plans, but the reality is, “If you fail to plan, then your plan is to fail.” A good business plan would have been my first choice when promising to save of wild horses and burros. You can not depend on our Senators and Congressmen to help you with a private foundation finances. Washington will spend 80 million dollars on a failed unemployment system instead just giving every American, $500,000.00 and let us stimulate our own economy. The BLM has there budget set for $37,000,000.00, this makes every wild horse worth $500,000.00 each. 49% of this budget of $37m., will be spent in Washington office keeping salaries. How does this protect wild horses and burros? Sounds like a “White House Wash” to me! Whose taking the bath here now…
Recession Snags Plan for Wild Horse Sanctuary
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 7, 2009; Page A02
The gauzy dream of Madeleine Pickens, the wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens, to save thousands of wild horses from government slaughter and turn them free in an “ecosanctuary” is crashing against the reality of bureaucracy and recession.
Now, as the economy worsens by the week, Pickens says philanthropic donations are as dry as tumbleweed, and she wants the federal government to pay her about $15 million a year to care for the horses she would take off its hands.
“Let me tell you this, seriously, you know, we’re having a horrible financial crisis and it has hurt everybody,” Pickens testified before a House Natural Resources subcommittee this week. “There isn’t one person I can go to now to ask them to contribute to the foundation. I mean, before, I had so many friends I could go to.”
Pickens still intends to spend $25 million to $50 million to purchase land for the ecosanctuary, but the deal is unworkable without government help, said Lee Otteni, who is retired from the federal Bureau of Land Management and working on the project for Pickens.
She has identified 1 million acres of suitable land in Nevada, home to half the nation’s wild horse population. About half the land is privately held now, and the rest is federal property. Pickens told lawmakers of her hope to create a place where city children, Boy and Girl Scouts, families, 4-H members and animal lovers of all kinds could stay overnight in log cabins, sit by campfires and admire the mustangs while learning about their place in American culture. Families could drive a 50-mile road and see horses along the way, Otteni said.
Officials with the Bureau of Land Management initially embraced Pickens as a savior. They have been struggling with the growing financial and political headache of caring for the wild horses and burros that roam federal lands in 10 Western states. The horses, which date back to the time of the Spanish conquistadors, compete for food with cattle owned by ranchers who lease grazing rights on the land from the government.
Officials say the range can handle about 27,000 horses. The excess animals are rounded up and put into holding facilities to await adoption. In recent years, the government has shrunk the open space available to the horses by about 19 million acres, resulting in more roundups. The bureau has typically gathered about 10,000 horses a year.
But adoptions have slowed significantly in the past five years, and the cost of feeding and caring for the horses has grown sharply, decimating the bureau’s budget and creating what the Government Accountability Office calls a “crisis.”
The government is now caring for about as many horses in holding facilities as the 33,000 that roam wild. This year, the bureau expects to spend about $10.3 million on horses in long-term holding facilities and $22.6 million on horses in short-term corrals.
The problem has grown so extreme, bureau officials have reluctantly begun to consider a legal but controversial solution: euthanasia.
That horrified Pickens, a racehorse breeder and animal lover who, along with her husband, airlifted 800 cats and dogs stranded by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and brought them to California for adoption.
She says she wants to adopt all wild horses and burros being held in federal pens, sterilize them and turn them loose on her retirement ranch. As the government rounds up additional horses each year, she says, she could absorb them because they would replace horses that die from natural causes.
When she floated her plan in November, Pickens was saluted as a heroine by animal lovers around the globe. She became ABC News’s “Person of the Week,” one fan wrote a song about mustangs in her honor, media outlets from as far away as Australia called, and a German documentary-maker is following her around with a camera.
Born in Europe, Pickens has said that she fell in love with America after steady viewing of “Bonanza,” the ’60s TV western. “From the time I was a little girl, I dreamed of coming to this incredible country,” she told lawmakers. “I was filled with visions of the Wild West, where horses roamed free. . . . Probably no other image around the world symbolizes America like that of the wild horse.”
Initially, Pickens said she would need federal tax credits to attract donors. But Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who met with her, was cool to that idea.
Ron Wenker, the Nevada state director for the Bureau of Land Management, said the money Pickens is seeking — $500 per horse per year — is about the same amount the government pays private ranchers who host wild horses long term on their pastures under federal contracts.
But a federal agency that relies on annual appropriations from Congress has no authority to commit to ad infinitum payments to Pickens, Wenker said. Furthermore, he said, the property that she wants is ineligible under a federal law that restricts horses to public lands that they inhabited as of 1971.
When Pickens pitched her idea last fall, there was no mention of payments from the government, Wenker said. If anything, the government usually charges a nominal fee to people who want to adopt wild horses, he said.
Pickens maintains that her proposal will save the government over the long run — $700 million by 2020 — because it will no longer have to fund expensive short-term holding facilities. In addition, because horses that roam free tend to die sooner than those kept in holding facilities, the horses on her ranch will live shorter lives, costing the government less.
She says her plan is stalling because the bureaucracy cannot respond to an innovative solution.
“They say, ‘Oh, she wants taxpayers’ money,’ ” Pickens said. “No, I’m trying to save taxpayer money. They have more horses in holding than they do on the range. That’s not good for the horses, and that’s not good for the taxpayers.”
Rep. Nick J. Rahall II (D-W.Va.) has introduced a bill that would allow wild horses on the federal land being eyed by Pickens. Among other things, his plan would also prohibit federal officials from slaughtering any horse that is not terminally ill.
Pickens’s proposal makes sense for taxpayers, Rahall said. “Her plan uses a combination of private resources and public funds,” he said. “And in today’s tight budget, that’s nothing to walk away from.”