The Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the nation’s wild horse and burro program, wants to enlist private landowners in the effort.
“This is the second time we’ve solicited proposals for private-land sanctuaries,” Tom Gorey with the program said. “We received 19 proposals in the first round and are assessing one viable one.”
The agency is conducting an environmental assessment of a 4,000-acre ranch owned by Richard and Jana Wilson in Centennial Valley about 30 miles west of Laramie, Wyo.
It’s estimated the Wilson ranch can sustain 250 wild horses, Corey said.
If a partnership agreement is reached, the BLM would pay $1.30 per head per day – the amount the agency pays ranchers who provide long-term pasture for excess wild horses, Corey said.
But the landowner is expected to develop an ecotourism facet for educational or sightseeing purposes, Corey said.
“The sanctuary has to be accessible to the public,” Corey said.
Proposed sanctuaries were rejected if they didn’t meet minimum requirements – ownership of the land and a proven ability to care for at least 200 wild horses, he said.
The BLM also is considering proposals to provide sanctuaries for mustangs on a combination of agency and private land, Corey said.
The BLM manages more than 245 million acres, mostly in 12 Western states, including Alaska.
Closer to home, mustangs roam 22,000 acres of BLM holdings in the Disappointment Valley northwest of Dolores. A roundup there last fall left a population of about 45 wild horses.
Disappointment Valley is one of four locations in Colorado where the BLM manages wild horse herds. An injected contraceptive, PZP, is being used there to hold herd population in check naturally.
David Temple, who owns a ranch in the area, said meeting BLM requirements for a private sanctuary would be difficult.
The carrying capacity of land in Colorado is less than in Nebraska, Kansas or elsewhere, Temple said. Compare a 65-mustang upper limit in Disappointment Valley with the land needed to sustain 200 or more wild horses.
Kylee Whited in the BLM’s Tres Rios field office in Dolores, doesn’t know of anyone interested in creating a private sanctuary.
“We might end up doing some legwork, but the sanctuary program is being handled in Washington,” Whited said.
Ecotourism is one phase of a broader BLM goal, Corey said. The agency is devising a wild horse and burro management program that includes population control, increased adoptions and an animal-welfare program based on science and research.