Ranchers to displace New Mexicos spanish wild horses; calls the herds "nusiances" and wants them off the land
Horse Project Boss Considers New Home for Spanish Mustangs
Written by Lee Ross
Thursday, 07 May 2009 09:22
A group of wild mustangs may be taken out of the East Mountains for good.
"We don't feel that the community up there wants our horses up there," said Carlos LoPopolo, executive director of the New Mexican Horse Project. "People have been harassing the horses."
He said if something doesn't change, he'll have all the horses off the land in 18 months or sooner, if land becomes available.
LoPopolo's organization works to preserve the original bloodlines of the Spanish mustang horses because of their beauty and their importance to Western history.
Part of the reason the horses are unique is in their DNA. Their blood was drawn several years ago to compare to DNA found in horse bones discovered during an archaeological dig in New Mexico, and the mustangs were found to be direct descendants of the horses brought to New Mexico by the Spanish more than 400 years ago. The line was so unique, in fact, that a new registry was created for these horses, the "New Mexican." People book tours to see the wild horses and also have hosted events for autistic children and people with cancer on the preserve.
A roaming agreement that allows the project to keep the horses on Campbell Corp.'s 28,000 acre preserve was something that was donated by the corporation in 2001, and LoPopolo was quick to praise Robert Gately, the president of Campbell.
"Robert Gately has been right there, steadfast with us," he said. "(But) I'm getting nothing … but guff from ranch managers and their hired help."
But LoPopolo said that Gately has not returned his phone calls.
During a short conversation in late April, Gately said he had not been able to get in touch with anyone from the New Mexican Horse Project. Messages left for Gately after that have not been returned.
According to Paul Polechla Jr., the project biologist and lead tracker, the locks were changed on gates leading into the property. Polechla has been able to access the land on foot, but has not been able to get onto the land on horseback or by truck for the past three months. He said he can't do fence repairs or check on the health of the wild horses.
"I hope we can resolve this," he said
It is not a recent problem, according to LoPopolo.
"It's just 10 years of frustration," he said. "People threaten to shoot the horses and everything else, I just had to get them out of there."
LoPopolo said he's had nearby residents tell him that if the horses come on their property, they will be shot. People have cut the fences to drive their trucks onto the preserve, he said, and he even had a man who lives five miles from the preserve claim it was the horses that caused his foal to break its leg. The man, LoPopolo said, claimed that the foal got wound up when it smelled the wild horses from that distance.
"He said it's different because yours is wild and they know the difference," LoPopolo said.
The project does have its advocates, though, LoPopolo said. Nearby residents have offered to mediate a conversation between representatives from the horse project and the ranch managers and have offered to do what they could to keep the horses in the East Mountains, but LoPopolo said it isn't enough.
"The majority (of residents) don't want those horses around," he said. "You don't want to go where you aren't wanted."
LoPopolo owns land in Socorro and is working to get a preserve going in Utah. He said his goal is to have preserves set up throughout the western United States.