Horse News

Wild Horse Lover Will Not Call It Quits

Story by Jim Carlton ~ reprint from WSJ ~ Live Link

Ms. Pickens Stands Up to Nevada Welfare Ranchers

Nevada cattle ranchers, having long battled the land’s harsh elements, now find themselves up against a new force of nature: Madeleine Pickens.


Madeleine Pickens near her Ranch in Nevada ~ Photo by Jim Carlton

Mrs. Pickens, wife of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, caused an uproar when she proposed the Bureau of Land Management let her fence off more than 500,000 acres of federal land to create a sanctuary for wild horses near a 14,000-acre ranch she bought in October.

Her proposal for the bureau to designate a “mustang monument” on those acres isn’t sitting well in Nevada cattle country, where ranchers worry Mrs. Pickens’s plan threatens to force them off the range. Nevada’s estimated 450,000 cattle graze mostly on federally owned lands in a practice dating from the 19th century.

The Elko County Commission voted Nov. 3 to oppose Mrs. Pickens’s plan. “What we’re worried about is if she locks up ranches all over Nevada,” said Commissioner Demar Dahl, a rancher.

If the plan went through, “something has got to give, and it will be cattle,” said Robin Boies, a 55-year-old local rancher who grazes her cattle on federal land adjacent to her Nevada ranch. Hunters and off-road enthusiasts also object to the plan, saying it could bar them from a popular recreation area to which they have free access now.

Like many ranches in the West, Mrs. Pickens’s ranch includes the rights to graze stock on surrounding federal land in return for payments to the government and general upkeep of the land. Her proposed mustang monument would be on these federal lands around her ranch.

Mrs. Pickens says she wants to buy enough other Nevada ranches with grazing rights on federal lands to create sanctuaries for as many as 10,000 horses. “I’m sorry, but there’s no putting this back in the bag,” she said.

Mrs. Pickens has been a frequent visitor to these parts since she began shopping for a ranch in 2008. She often flies from her home in Dallas into nearby Wendover, Nev., in her husband’s private Gulfstream 550 jet, then shuttles in by helicopter.

Last month, her rented American Eurostar AS 350 chopper set down in the parking lot of a casino in Wells, Nev., where she stepped out in riding boots, riding pants and a faux-fur jacket. Later that day, accompanied by her dachshund, Tommy, she surveyed sage-covered Nevada landscape as the helicopter banked low over a herd of galloping mustangs.

“Oh, pure joy,” Mrs. Pickens said as five mustangs raced below the chopper toward a line of distant mountains. “I’m just glad they’re out there.”

Mrs. Pickens, 63, says the mustang preserve would be open to the public. And while she says local support would be nice, she says she has backing from the Bureau of Land Management. Bureau spokesman Tom Gorey wouldn’t comment on the proposal except to say it was under review. “All the naysayers can nay as much as they want,” Mrs. Pickens says.

Mr. Pickens, 82, who has become an apostle for clean power such as wind in recent years, is unwilling to bet against his wife of five years. “I tell you one thing, you get a woman who has made up her mind to do it, and she has money, she’ll do it,” he said. “You give her an ax and she’ll do the chopping.”

A century ago, as many as two million mustangs, descendants of domesticated horses, roamed North America. Round-ups and slaughter cut their numbers sharply, to about 34,000 wild horses today. The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act set aside federal land for them.

Bureau of Land Management officials say the horses have no predators in the animal world and can double in population every four years. The agency has removed nearly a quarter-million from the range since 1971, offering most for adoption. There are now nearly 10,000 more than federal land managers think the open range can sustain.

Almost 40,000 captured horses are also being boarded at government expense—prompting the bureau in 2008 to consider euthanizing them to curb costs.

That alarmed Mrs. Pickens, who owned racing horses with a previous husband, the late aviation tycoon Allen Paulson. She says she got out of that business after learning some of her horses ended up in the slaughterhouse. “I would cry at night,” she said.

One morning, “I woke up with an epiphany—to buy a ranch and go to the BLM and get grazing rights for the horses,” she said. In late 2008, she began meeting with the bureau and looking for ranches in Nevada.

She bought Spruce Mountain Ranch, gaining grazing rights on 540,000 acres of surrounding federal land. Under her plan, that and other sanctuaries would be operated by a nonprofit, Saving America’s Mustangs. Mrs. Pickens says she is also in escrow to buy a 4,500-acre ranch along U.S. Route 93, where she hopes to set up a tourism village and conduct mustang tours.

At an Elko commission meeting Nov. 3, which Mrs. and Mr. Pickens attended, attendees lined up to speak out against her plan.

Some locals are supportive, particularly in Wells, which could gain a tourism boost from its location near the sanctuary. “The overall concept I have bought into,” Wells Mayor Rusty Tybo told Mrs. Pickens in a meeting Nov. 15.

She nodded, and added: “I don’t know how anything bad can come of it. As long as I’m alive, it won’t.”

43 replies »

  1. Thank you, Madeleine!

    Your plan may be one of the very few places a wild horse may live in peace.

    If the evil ones will respect these sanctuaries.


    • Just an aside here;

      lorna moffat said on
      December 6, 2010 at 7:11 pm
      In response to Laura Leigh on April 9, 2010 at 7:58 am:

      Lately I have focused on the Wild Horse issues facing our country. Yet there is a lot of news on the slaughter front. I want to take a minute to “catch up” on some of these issues. Recently there has been extensive video footage released through The Canadian Horse Defense Coalition. The video can be […]

      Yrgent action alert. PLEASE DO THIS!
      Please call Speaker of the House and ask that she let HR 503 come to the floor for a vote before the session ends. HR 503 is the Horse Safety Transportation bill and may have the Horse Slaughter Prevention bill attached to it, I’m not sure.
      Sen. Conyers wants to bring it to a vote and Nancy is stopping it, so the rumor goes.
      The switchboard # is 202-224-3121

      See all comments on this post here.


  2. I really hope what you are trying to do works! That way at least some of the Majestic Mustangs will be safe from the cruelty of by the hands of the BLM and it’s so called cowboys.


    • When getting my Bachelors degree at NM State my supervisor/instructor was previously a feature writer for The Wall Street Journal and I learned then they have an excellent news and feature department. Right now they may be the best. mar


      • Thought Fox News Rupert Murdoch just bought them out. Usually very slanted pro-corporation, I thought. Anyhow, I was pleasantly surprised. ; )


      • I hope their days are not numbered. If they have stayed strong it is the strength of the editors and reputation to uphold. Murdoch has helped murder the American Press. mar


  3. It is hopeful to see a member of those sacred upper percentiles that does something or hopes to do something with her money other than try and make more with it. I would like to see more millionaires and billionaires step up and do something for this country. Their whining and the whining of their reps in congress is repulsive. Especially given the circumstances of many in this country and around the globe. I challenge those with means to address the issues in this Democracy leaving their greed and self serving attitudes behind. Kudos to Mrs. Pickens for caring and being willing to share.


  4. Thank You Savethehorses, I am ever so pleased with this video, it wasnt perfect but fair, wish they would have elaborated on the what the cattle ranchers pay, anyway , this is what I have been talkin about Good Solid Media courage < This is exactly what the Wild Mustangs need !!!! OMG>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>


      • I did hear him say that and i understood , but alot of people might not have caught that…… I wished he would have been a little more specific in the terms of an amount, anyway it was good , this is the kind of saturation that can be to the GREAT advantage to Our Wild Mustangs……… Without the MEDIA how can all the Public understand the CATASTROPHIC mismanagement going on right under Americas noses, If nothing else just let them know how their tax dollars are being totally wasted on unnecessary Round -ups, just watch them react to this alone , hense they will find out what the BLM is up tooo, then and then you just watch what happens next !!!!! LOOK OUT !!!! The Mustangs need this now !!!!!!


  5. We need without delay to send this video to every Newspaper , every tv channel, every radio station, this my wonderful friends will no doubt save all the MUSTANGS, I know I sound like a broken record but this is ESSENTIAL to SAVE The Wild Mustangs……..With MEDIA sound and Precise reporting is One most riveting KEYS, to creating The TRUTH to be KNOWN …………..


  6. DON’T forget about our abused mismanaged tax paid for wild horses through the holidays this is the perfect storm for us to loose r wild horses when our backs are turned to enjoy the holidays

    Calling 60K horse angel, advocates to, “THE SUMMIT OF THE HORSE”, to give the 60K wild horses a voice that have none. Jan 1-3 2010 Las Vegas Nevada, There lives are on the line.
    If the cattle ranchers can put fence’s up to keep the horses out then Madeline should be able to put a fence up to keep the horse in.
    Does BLM stand for cattle and mining, why are the horses managed by such a conflict of intrest, whos the idiot that decided this. Why can’t the BLM do something thats right for the people and the horses, Many people have great ideas that the BLM wont here out. hmmm sounds like a whole lot of corruption to me, someones making bank on the slaughter.
    The BLM waste our tax money on gathering, abusing and stockpiling the then claim its costing 42k to feed, do they not see we are not idiots, how long will they keep crying this, I guess there our more stupid people in the USA that belive this WE must get the work out to educate the people that have no clue whats going on. , thats managed them. in there pockets off r horses going to slaughter The BLM mismanaged and has failed r wild equine by rounding them up Americans need “Wild and domestic horse parks across america”, for all of us to use. It would create thousands of jobs and knocking the growing numbers of obesity that is grou Horses heal people, There would be wild horse viewing/camping,, education and riding centers for all HORSES HEAL PEOPLE AND WE ALL NEED THAT


    • This is the kind of writing that needs to be published on the air , in the newspapers Media is our answer, No power like the power of the PRESS, this is the only way to get attention to Our Wild Mustangs Plight !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Great stuff Kim !!!


  7. seeing how this country polititions like money to be given to them for their vote…. I wonder if she’s paid them enough.


  8. I understand her “neighbors to be” don’t much care for her idea. 😀 Seems like Mrs. P. is out to beat them at their own game, welfare horse herds- who’d have thunk it?


  9. “Go Madeleine !!” 🙂 I support you 100% !! Your plan is a good one, no matter what your opponents say, or throw at you. This may well be about the only way to really save OUR wild mustangs. I am grateful that someone, such as yourself, that has the money & the means to get the job done, IS actually DOING something good FOR the horses! Thank you, & keep up the hard work & the pressure!


  10. I hope she never quits! M. Pickins is a smart lady, she could really help Nevada find a better way, a modern way to collect water for the entire state- passive inexpensive systems.

    here’s a recent weather report for Elko to show fog “Mostly cloudy. Patchy freezing fog in the morning. Slight chance of rain in the morning. Chance of rain in the afternoon. Snow level 6500 feet. Southwest winds 10 to 15 mph. Highs 41 to 48.””

    google “FogQuest” for one.


  11. ‎”Cost to the taxpayer for cruel roundups, stuffing Wild horses in filthy holding pens and feeding them: 67 MILLION DOLLARS

    Cost to the taxpayer to leave them peacefully in the wild where they have a legal right to be: ZERO DOLLARS

    Preserving our wild horse heritage for future generations: PRICELESS”

    -Simone Netherlands.


    • Thank You Simone !!!! This comment should be on the Front Page of every Newspaper in America…………………………………………………….. Thank You !!!


    • Dear Simone !!! May I have your permission to send what you just beautifully said to every Newspaper and radio station in Ohio……………………………….


  12. I hope Madeleine can get this sanctuary up and running by next summer. I have to go practically right by her property on my way to WY. I would just have to make a slight detour and I would be on her front doorstep! Heck count me in and save a spot at the campfire for me!


  13. Go Mrs. Pickens! A woman with a warm heart. I ‘ve never seen a mustang but I hope to someday if there are any left. It must be mind boggling for her dealing with with all these people. Gotta love her!


    • Mary,
      I hope that you will be able to someday see a wild horse in the wild. It is an overwhelming sight. It reminds us that there are more important things in life besides “us”. I bet you have some idea of what I am saying if you have ever watched a group of bluebirds getting a drink at your birdbath or ever seen some adolescent coyotes playing “tag” around a bush or even smelled a rose on a spring morning or ever heard an owl “hoot” in the night or felt the breath of your horse as you nuzzled him or even leaned up against a big old tree when you were feeling “all alone”. All of these things are important. All of nature is important. Each and every wild horse is important. Our caring for the wild ones is only one small illustration of what is really important in life. Our worries and our fight for the wild ones is only an example of what we recognize as “nature telling us something is wrong”…


      • Grandma Gregg that was beautiful !!!!! Mary is in for the most beautiful sight I have ever seen in my life , in Nevada out on the desert a herd of the most beautiful Mustangs running free at full tilt , it was an amazing sight and the sound you could feel inside your body I will never forget it, it is embedded in my mind forever …. Everyone goes to Vegas to gamble not me it was to see or just catch a glimpse of the Wild Mustangs……………………..I have been there over the years 80 times……. until 5 years ago , i couldnt find them anywhere, inquired where they were and thats where all this started for me…………………………………. I had no idea until then what was happening……


      • I do so very much love the breath of my horse every morning as we nuzzle. There is no better way to start my day. Nature is VERY important to me and always has been. We own a small swamp and I relish all the wildlife this small puddle sustains. I’m deeply concerned about the wild horses and burros and horse slaughter even though I’ve never seen them in the wild. I still dream that someday I’ll be able to.


  14. My little girls pray every day that the wild horses can be set free or go to Madeliene’s sanctuary or Solier’s Meadows. We can’t wait to see this come true, you go Madeliene!


  15. Having an article like this in the Wall Street Journal, a nationally and internationally read and respected newspaper with a more business and conservative slant th an The Times is very big. The timing along with the CNN story helps bring national and international attentiont n to our cause. Also, this evening, Glen Beck was all over the Russian government becoming 51 percent owners of the Canadian comhpany that owns mineral rights to two uranium mines in Wyoming. I could not find out whether the BLM originally held the mineral rights and then sold them to the Canadian Company when I was researching this. I don’t have a good map of Wyoming (or perhaps it is my understanding of how to search for one), but the one I was able to find made it appear as if some of the wild horse herd areas that are being or have been culled this year may be near this area. Maybe, people will start figuring out how important it is for our national interests, all our national interests, if our horses can stay wild and free on our lands.


  16. Wonder how many of those “naysayin'” cowboys and cowgirls have cozy deals with the megalithic meat corporations (Cargil, etc) wherein practically 100% of the product is for export?

    So they ain’t helpin’ feed America, folks!

    BTW, ever wondered why hay and forages are so freaking expensive (if you can even find it) in the West? Well the cost of water, for sure. But there is a huge market to export those grasses and legumes to Asia in the West which drives costs up and pushes availabilty down.

    Yeah! Ain’t capitalism just peachy-keen!


  17. We should stand up to them too, by protesting at the Summit of the Horse in Las Vegas, Nevada January 3-6. Send me a private email to and I can put you in touch with the woman in Las Vegas who is organizing this protest. I’m sure some of you already know her. Advocates are planning to attend from as far away as New York. Permit for all 4 days to protest is being obtained.


  18. Hope this works!! You rock Madeleine!

    Does anyone know where I can get accurate numbers on BLM land – acreage, what acreage is used for what and so forth and so on?

    Thank you.



  19. Madeleine: God Bless You! May you succee with this endeavor in Nevada and it become an example for one of the same throughout each state in the U.S. More importantly, let’s hope that the BLM blows up under its disgusting actions and lies. Maybe, we will be able to rejoice with the NEw Year that we, the citizens, have won over a tyrent agency that needs to be cleaned up and thinned out with jail sentences as their reward for the damage they have done to our wild horses and burros.


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