Madeleine Pickens announced today that her plan to create a one million-acre wild horse sanctuary in the Western U.S. has been impeded due to the ailing economy. Pickens, wife of oil mogul T. Boone Pickens, has been working with the Bureau of Land Management after she had learned that older steeds who are held in long-term holding facilities may be euthanised in order to curb increasing costs.
The 33,000 wild stallions, which reside in 10 western states, half in Nevada, are protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971. The BLM spends about $27 million per year to protect 27,000 wild animals--the other 6,000 will be rounded up and given for adoption--but those costs are expected to rise up to $77 million by 2012.
Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and West Virginia State Representative Nick Randall has proposed a bill that would set aside more public land for the animals' as well as ban any killings of healthy horses. Pickens will testify in support of the bill. A new head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has yet to be named by Obama and this, along with focus on the nation's economic situation, has left little discussion in the House about what to do about the wild horses. Pickens says she understands the priority of the economy over the refuge, yet remains frustrated that no BLM head has been elected.
Pickens' plan proposes that the land be both publicly and privately owned, but in order to transfer some of the land over to her, Pickens would require government aid in the form of grazing allotments as well a stipend. She also said that the refuge would be turned into an eco-friendly, western resort run by a non-profit organization. She estimates that these changes to the BLM's current methods would save the government over $700 million from now until 2020.
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