Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big Oil $$$ to Bail Out 33,000 Wild Horses

Texas oil billionaire T. Boone Pickens' wife proposes way to save wild horses


By JAMIE STENGLE / Associated Press

The wife of Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens said Tuesday that she'll create a massive refuge for thousands of wild horses, after the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced it was considering euthanizing some of the animals.

About 33,000 wild horses and burros roam the open range in 10 Western states. In order to protect the herd, the range and other foraging animals, the BLM wants to have about 27,000 horses and burros in the wild. So those too old or considered unadoptable are sent to long-term holding facilities.

The agency now has about the same number of the animals in holding facilities as on the range. An agency spokesman said the costs of keeping animals in the holding facilities has caused them to consider euthanasia.

Madeleine Pickens told The Associated Press that she has proposed purchasing around 1 million acres to serve as a refuge for the around 30,000 horses that are being kept in holding facilities and the BLM has agreed to give her the horses once she has the land.

"I started to think there must be a solution — something that would work and make everybody happy," she said.

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey said the agency welcomes the offer.

"Right now we couldn't be more pleased with her interest and we hope that materializes so that we can get many of these horses out of holding," he said.

Pickens said animals brought to the refuge will be sterilized and she will be able to take the extra horses the BLM takes out of the wild each year as well.

"We will never turn an animal down," Pickens said.

Pickens said she is in the process of negotiating the purchase of the land so she would not say what state the refuge will be in.

"I feel this tremendous relief," she said. "I feel like the wagon is surrounded and instead of being surrounded by evil, it's surrounded by people who are willing to help."

She said she envisions the refuge also becoming an eco-resort, a place where people could come and watch the wild horses.

"We'll have enough land and property to pretty much do everything," she said.

She's also creating a foundation to help with the project.

Gorey said that while they have authority to euthanize the surplus horses, it's an option they did not want to have to exercise.

The BLM has a program for people to adopt the surplus animals, but Gorey said that the adoptions of the wild horses has been dropping, going from 5,700 in fiscal year 2005 to 3,700 in fiscal year 2008. Since 2005, they've sold about 2,900 under a law that allows them to sell "without limitation" animals that are older than 10 or have been passed over for adoption three times. Gorey said they won't sell to slaughterhouses.

Pickens, the child of British father and Lebanese mother who grew up in the Middle East and went to school in England and France, said she always had a love for the West and wild horses.

"It's such a beautiful sight to see," Pickens said. "This is our national heritage and it needs to be preserved."

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