I-Team Video Update: NV Elko County’s Strict Building Codes Biased Against Mustang Monument?

By George Knapp , Matt Adam as published on LasVegasNow.com

“You take the hatred of horses aside, there is no good reason why anybody should be opposed to this here, or anywhere else,”

LAS VEGAS – A California businesswoman who invested $25 million in creating a tourist attraction in rural Nevada says she probably wouldn’t make the same decision again.

The founder of the Mustang Monument wild horse sanctuary in Elko County says that further investment would be a waste of money because she’s been blocked from opening, not only by the BLM, but also by Elko County officials who say they don’t want to support anything that keeps wild horses on the range.

Madeleine Pickens is rich, blonde, female, and is from California, and those are four strikes against her in some circles.

But the fact that she wants to create a sanctuary for wild horses in a county known for its ranching industry is what probably doomed her Mustang Monument project. Ranchers are not fans of the BLM, but animosity toward wild horses is the one issue on which both of those camps can agree.

At travel expos around the world, including Europe and China, Madeleine Pickens pitched her Mustang Monument eco-sanctuary as something different for high-end tourists, a chance to interact with wild horses in the same region where the first horses on earth were born.

Travel agents loved it, state tourism promoted it, and the visitors who stayed last year were overwhelmed. It looked like 2016 would be a huge success, but it never happened.

“We had to reimburse them. We had to cancel reservations. It’s terrible,” she said.

Pickens knew she would have trouble with the BLM if she tried to put mustangs on her public acreage, but she continued to pour millions of dollars into fixing up her 20,000 deed acres with new water systems, massive pivots to grow alfalfa, first class guest accommodations and a hangar filled with expensive SUV’s and customized coaches.

Local contractors were hired to do the work, local ranch hands to care for the mustangs. The monument represented jobs, tourists, and tax dollars but from the beginning Elko County said no thanks.

County commissioners, several of them cattle ranchers, voted against the sanctuary in 2010. In the minutes of public meetings, commissioners said they opposed any use of water rights for wild horses. Another said he didn’t have enough information to make a decision, but still didn’t like Pickens’ idea. Elko is cattle country, and ranchers see wild horses as a threat.

“You take the hatred of horses aside, there is no good reason why anybody should be opposed to this here, or anywhere else,” said Clay Nannini, Elko realtor.

Since the county commission’s vote, Pickens encountered obstacles at every turn. Building inspectors imposed and enforced standards unknown in Elko County and delays became commonplace.

“They don’t discriminate. They all apply the same standard, which is, it’s Madeleine Pickens. She can wait a little while. She’s from California, so she can wait,” said Jerry Reynoldson, wild horse advocate.

“Every time the building department comes by, they now want me to fix another building for another $750,000. They don’t like this. They don’t like that,” Pickens said.

Example, an old house converted into a dining hall and kitchen. It took two years to get the permits and cost a million dollars.

She intended to build a kitchen that could handle up to 45 diners maximum to match the ranch’s capacity, but instead had to construct a stainless steel mega-kitchen that looks like it belongs at the MGM Grand.

“You could see this kitchen in a restaurant in San Francisco that served 500 people, and you know it’s totally out of place here. She will never use what’s there but they just made her build it because they could,” Reynoldson said.

Kitchen mops had to have their own walled-off section, and it required its own permit. A walk-in refrigerator was nearly approved, until an inspector wanted to see evidence it was earthquake-proof.

“So I asked the engineers, the builder and he said, ‘We’ve never been asked for this kind of information on a walk-in refrigerator,'” Pickens said.

Pickens spent a million dollars buying what she calls safari tents, tee-pees, to provide visitors with an upscale western experience. The county required that each tent sit atop a slab of concrete and rebar 7 feet thick, then added, the tents would need their own sprinkler systems in case of fire.

“I said, I’m out of this. I rolled up the tents. They’re all stored and I will probably sell them in another state or somewhere else,” she said. “They’ve all had a wink and a nod. In other words, give her a hard time. That’s hard to take. You come in, you’re sincere, but after a while, you don’t want to continue to throw money away.”

Not only has the BLM prohibited Pickens from putting mustangs on her public acres, she couldn’t open her own property to visitors if she wanted to. That massive mega kitchen still doesn’t have a permit to operate commercially, and she was told she can’t even use it for family dining. The airplane hangar of custom SUV’s will likely be sold off, without the vehicles ever being used at all.

The I-Team called Elko County for a comment and will let you know what they have to say when they call back.


Update: Former Wild Horses found dead, $100K reward offered to find culprits who sabotaged horse preserve

Story by I-Team’s George Knapp on LasVegasNow.com

A dozen or more wild mustangs at a preserve in Elko County died of thirst after someone disabled all of their water sources.

A reward of $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible for a disturbing act of animal cruelty.  WARNING: Some of the images you are about to see are disturbing.

A dozen or more wild mustangs at a preserve in Elko County died of thirst after someone disabled all of their water sources.  The mustangs were living at the preserve because they were rescued by businesswoman Madeleine Pickens.  In addition to the dead horses, dozens of others are now missing.

“They got little Scarlet,” Pickens said.  “She wasn’t a pony — just a small horse. She was so sweet.”

Pickens said when she arrived Monday afternoon to her Elko County ranch, one of the first dead horses she saw was a mare known at the ranch as Scarlet. Pickens named her.

The withered remains of 11 more Mustangs were found in and around the water sources that had been installed for the horses. Each of the pumps and wells used to provide water to the horses had been sabotaged, disabled, dried up, which meant the 60 or so horses living in that sector had no water in the summer heat.

Reward: $100,000 offered

“The horses know where all the water is,” Pickens said.  “Every one of them was off, so all they could do is die of thirst, and it’s not a  pretty death. It’s horrible to see them laying there.”

It’s not the first time Picken’s property has been vandalized.  She’s spent seven years, along with $25 million turning a barren, overgrazed cattle ranch into the 600,000 acre Mustang Monument.

The Mustang Monument is an eco-resort and sanctuary for 700 or more wild horses which were ransomed and rescued by Pickens before they could be sent to a slaughterhouse.

However, due to the continued opposition by the BLM and Elko County officials — the eco-resort is closed. Pickens and her staff still operate the monument as a self-sustaining foundation, and when she’s on the property, she helps feed the Mustangs.

The sabotage occurred in the northeast corner of the property, more than an hour’s drive from the main ranch house.  Ranch hands check every week on the herd living out there. They found the carnage over the weekend.

But it was more than random vandalism. Every gate was open and every fence was cut and laid down. A few horses were still alive when they were found, but they were too weak to stand.

“I feel so guilty because I rescued these horses from the killer-buyers and from going to slaughterhouses,” Pickens said.  “They’re on a 12,000-acre private piece of land — all fenced in with wells and springs — and they should be safe. But some hoodlums, some outlaws come in and kill them.”

Pickens staff contacted the Elko Sheriff’s Office, but they’re not confident there will be much of an investigation, so Wednesday afternoon, she told the 8 News NOW I-Team she was offering a reward of $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the persons responsible.

“I’m in shock. It’s so disturbing when you drive by and see these beautiful bodies lying on the ground,” Pickens said.

If you have any information regarding these crimes against Saving America’s Mustangs and Mustang Monument, please call Rean Wegley immediately at 858-759-5517 or contact her by email on rwegley@savingamericasmustangs.org.

The I-Team had recently visited Mustang Monument as part of a planned news series.


Pickens Moving Forward With Wild Horse Eco-Resort

Source: By George Knapp, Chief Investigative Reporter – bio | email of KLAS TV

“The BLM spends more than $70 million per year to round up horses that most likely don’t need to be gathered…”

“George Knapp has always been a friend to the wild horses and in this story reports on the Pickens Eco-Resort.  No commentary, here, but it does appear that Pickens has not made any plans with the BLM, yet…so we thank the ‘Knappster’ for his report and recommend that comments be made at KLAS.  Keep the faith!” ~ R.T.


LAS VEGAS — Thousands of travel agents and executives from all over the world are in Las Vegas this week for the International Pow Wow trade show, in which the industry learns about new and exciting travel destinations.

One of the hottest attractions unveiled this year is a Nevada-based eco-sanctuary created to celebrate one of the most iconic images of the American West — the wild horse.

For the past six years or so, the I-Team has chronicled the efforts of Madeleine Pickens to build a one-of-a-kind sanctuary for wild horses, a place where visitors could see mustangs in their natural environment, learn about the horses and their place in American history.

Her opponents, including the Bureau of Land Management, have made Pickens jump through every imaginable hoop, but she’s forged ahead. Her mustang monument is now ready to accept visitors, and at the Pow Wow show, people from all over the world were lining up to hear more.

The cowgirls working booth 1609 at the Pow Wow show haven’t exactly had to lasso passers-bys. Their joint has been jumping. A travel agent from Sweden, like so many of her counterparts from all over the globe, was mesmerized by video images of wild horses stampeding across the Nevada range.

“We’ve been inundated and swamped with people from all over the world,” Pickens said. “China, Canada, England, Sweden.”

A businesswoman and philanthropist, Pickens has spent six years and close to $14 million on her dream project, the Mustang Monument, a high-class eco-sanctuary in Elko County that is already home to 600 wild horses, saved by Pickens from a trip to the slaughterhouse.

Pickens, a horse lover, had the idea that one way to save the dwindling herds of wild horses roaming Nevada public lands is to turn them into a tourist attraction, so she bought two sprawling cattle ranches encompassing more than half a million acres of private and public land, and has transformed the properties into a self-sustaining, first-class boutique attraction where guests would have the option of staying in plush teepees and have every chance to admire an enduring symbol of the Old West, the wild horses, in the same lands where the first horses on the planet evolved.

At the massive Pow Wow travel gathering, Pickens’ pitch to travel agents proved to be a big hit. Last year, Pickens was part of a tourism delegation to China. The Chinese, it turns out, are fascinated by the American West, especially the mustangs.

At the travel show, travel agents from Asia, Europe, and South America promised to book tours starting next year, an economic shot in the arm for Nevada, and a potential solution to one of the most screwed-up programs in all of government.

The BLM spends more than $70 million per year to round up horses that most likely don’t need to be gathered, and then store them in subsidized corrals for the rest of their lives where the public never sees them. Pickens told the BLM years ago she would buy enough range to handle all of the 30,000 horses held by the government.

The BLM has yet to allow her even a single horse for the eco-sanctuary and has thrown up every imaginable roadblock to the sanctuary plan, while the roundups continue unabated.

“Instead of shipping them out to another state, why not let them stay in Nevada?” Pickens said. “I’ve shown them the money. It all goes into my foundation. So they must see I’m sincere. There’s nothing in it for me except for emptying my pocketbook every night.”

Mustang Monument is having its soft opening this summer but will be ready for waves of foreign visitors next year. The BLM, which has supposedly managed the lands around her eco-sanctuary for decades, says it can’t approve the release of any wild horses on public lands until it completes a two-year study, assuming it doesn’t find a reason to kill the plan outright.

Pickens said she is moving forward with or without the BLM’s permission, using the mustangs she bought on land she owns.

Click (HERE) to visit and comment at KLAS

Madeleine Pickens’ $1,200 (per night) Teepees

by Debbie Coffey ~ Director of Wild Horse Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation
as published in the PPJ Gazette

“Madeleine is banking on (and, will be cashing in on), the wild horses”

Madeleine Pickens (whose organization is called Saving America’s Mustangs) plans an “eco-resort” called Mustang Monument, as part of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) eco-sanctuary plan to put wild horse geldings (a non-reproducing herd), which were rounded up and warehoused on a BLM holding facility, onto another fenced in area (with a more glamorous title).

While Madeleine’s idea included putting horses on a grazing allotment on public land, the BLM’s plan will likely eradicate 3 federally protected wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs). The BLM will likely roundup the remaining family bands of wild horses currently on these 3 HMAs, ship the wild horses to short term holding, then to same sex, long term holding pastures on private property for the rest of their lives. (Which may not be very long, but that’s another story.)

In this particular public-private partnership, approximately 14,000 acres are private land, and a whopping 508,000 acres are public land. But who will benefit the most?

Madeleine Pickens was recently in China pushing her “eco-resort.” Then, Madeleine sent out an e-mail to supporters announcing that Mustang Monument will be on the cover of “Luxury Hotels of America” magazine.

When I recently saw that Madeleine was going to be on the radio show “Nevada Matters” on Renegade Radio, I called in with a few concerns. Unfortunately, much of what I said was (heavily) edited out of the archived version. http://vimeo.com/59761000

At about 14:43 minutes into the archived radio show (link below), I called in. As I recall, it seemed that Madeleine mentioned how much money long term holding pastures received, that Saving America’s Mustangs would get $450 per horse, and that she wasn’t making money. I pointed out that she would be making a lot of money on the eco-resort. Anyhow, Madeleine stated “I’m not making money.”

To explain her eco-resort plans in more detail here, there will be 50 teepees (Madeleine calls them tipis). The Luxury Tipis go for $1,200 a night  and the Luxury Safari Tents go for $1,500 a night. The rooms have 24 hour butler service.

Madeleine is banking on (and, will be cashing in on), the wild horses. After all, this isn’t called the Tipi Monument.

What’s really funny is that on page 2 of the BLM Scoping Brief, it was described that this eco-sanctuary would have “rustic accommodations similar to historic Native American dwellings…”

Does the interior of one of Madeleine’s tipis  seem similar to this teepee to you?

Back to the radio show, when I mentioned my concerns about fencing off public lands, Madeleine said “nothing changes as far as the fencing.” But, on page 3 of BLM’s Public Scoping Brief for the Eco-Sanctuary, under “Fencing,it states:

“…it has been proposed to fence all portions of the boundary that are currently unfenced, depending on the route selected for the fencing, approximately 53 to 72 miles of new fence would be required.” (emphasis mine)

That sounds like a change to me. Fencing will be added. The entire eco-sanctuary boundary will be fenced. And unless you walk around with a pair of wire cutters or a saw in your pocket, the BLM will be fencing off public lands.

Also, on page 3-6 of BLM’s Resource Management Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) public comments about fencing included concerns that the fencing would prevent wild horses from accessing water, fragment existing HMAs and create unnatural conditions for a wild horse population living within the proposed Eco-Sanctuary.

(Maybe Madeleine was too busy figuring out which “high-end toiletries” to provide in the tipis, and didn’t read about fencing in the Scoping Brief or the EIS.)

It seemed to me that Madeleine may have been making a distinction between her plans and the BLM’s plans. For instance, in what seemed to be a response to my concerns about geldings (a non-reproducing herd) on the eco-sanctuary, she said “we don’t have anything to do with that thought process” and “that’s not our thought process.”

It may not be her “thought process,” but a non-reproducing herd is what the BLM is planning to put on this eco-sanctuary, and what will be happening.

Here’s my thought process: What will happen in 20-30 years when these non-reproducing geldings die and the wild horses in BLM’s Short and Long Term Holding facilities have died, and there are no more wild horses on public lands? The Mustang Monument will then truly be a “monument.”

What will happen after Madeleine dies? Will the public be allowed to read the trust or business document that deals with the future of this eco-sanctuary?

What will happen with Saving America’s Mustangs 66 water rights in 5 basins? In the future, will someone file an application to change the “use,” and will this water then go for industrial use?

In my opinion, it seemed as if Madeleine may have tried to portray people (and possibly, me in particular) who have concerns about the eco-sanctuary plan, as “agitators.” That is why, after the commercial break, I brought up a bit about what I’ve done.

After I mentioned her/Saving America’s Mustangs’ 66 water rights in 5 basins, Madeleine said “It sounds to me like you have more sympathy towards ranchers.” But then, soon after, Madeleine stated “I’m a rancher, too.”

Madeleine also said “I think it’s rather odd that you don’t see the good side to this.”

Apparently, she missed my whole point that family bands of wild horses (stallions, mares and foals) will be taken off of their federally protected Herd Management Areas. She’ll get geldings out of short term holding, but then the BLM will roundup wild horse family bands and send them to short term holding. (That’s why I called it a shell game.)

Meanwhile, the BLM is planning the sale/lease of about 6,397 acres of land for oil and gas drilling only about 20 miles from her ranch and luxury tipis, and inside of the Eco-Sanctuary boundary. (It’ll be interesting to see who snatches up those parcels, if nobody protests them.)

BLM’s plans for other Eco-Sanctuaries, takes wild horses out of holding facilities, but may put them mostly on private property, where the public will have to pay to stay or likely make an appointment to tour, to see the wild horses that they could once see for free on public lands. The BLM, once again, puts lipstick on a pig.

Whatever the BLM plans, it does NOT benefit the wild horses, does not maintain a “thriving ecological balance,” and it is just another whitewash leading to the extinction of our wild horses.



The heavily edited Nevada Matters radio show on Renegade Radio: https://vimeo.com/59761000
The BLM Northern Nevada Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary Resource Management Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement (December 2012): http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/elko_field_office/information/nepa/eiss/archives/nenvwh_ecosanctuary.Par.18186.File.dat/WildHorse_ScopRpt_FINAL_508_reduced.pdf
The BLM Scoping Brief: http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/elko_field_office/information/nepa/eiss/archives/nenvwh_ecosanctuary.Par.21472.File.dat/EcoSanctuaryScopingBrief.pdf
Map of the eco-sanctuary project showing the Herd Management Areas: http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/nv/field_offices/elko_field_office/information/nepa/eiss/archives/nenvwh_ecosanctuary.Par.23699.File.dat/spruce_2%20%282%29.pdf

BLM Assessing Wild Horse Sanctuary Plan in North Nevada

By SCOTT SONNER of the Associated Press

Pickens Plan Still Moving Target
BLM at Antelope Complex 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

BLM at Antelope Complex 2011 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

RENO, Nev.  — Federal land managers have identified the wide range of issues that must be addressed to move forward with a proposal to establish a wild horse ecosanctuary over 820 square miles of northeast Nevada.

The Bureau of Land Management issued a 228-page public scoping document last Tuesday that will be used to develop a range of alternatives for the plans by Madeline Pickens and Saving America’s Mustangs to develop the ecosanctuary about 25 miles southeast of Wells.

The idea is to give visitors an up close look at free-roaming mustangs while at the same time ease the need for BLM to remove horses from the range and ship them to costly holding facilities, mostly in the Midwest.

The report says one thing most everyone agrees upon: BLM’s current policy isn’t working.

Residents Don’t Want to Foot Bill for Pickens’ Wild Horse Eco-Resort

By DYLAN WOOLF HARRIS of the Elko Daily

“…it’s the taxpayers who are getting gored…”
Madeleine Pickens at the 2011International Equine Conference ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Madeleine Pickens at the 2011International Equine Conference ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

ELKO — Certain local residents’ concerns weren’t assuaged by the Bureau of Land Management’s response to why $872,161 in federal money is paying for a proposed wild horse eco-sanctuary preliminary report.

The federally-owned, privately-managed Northeast Nevada Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary is to be located 25 miles south of Wells on more than 500,000 acres of public land and about 14,000 acres of private land. The project’s next step requires the drafting of an EIS, which will require data to be collected and analyzed, and then drafted into a document.

Recently, naysayers spoke out at a county natural resources advisory committee meeting, asking a local BLM representative why the agency was paying for scoping. Private entities such as gold mines typically pay the scoping costs on public lands projects, said committee chair Ralph Sacrison.

In reality, BLM is responsible for doing the EIS statement, according to BLM Elko District Manager Ken Miller.

“The reason industry usually (pays for) them is because we can’t do it in the time needed,” he said. Sometimes industry opts to pay for scoping to ensure its completion in the quickest time possible.

But a tax-funded EIS, whether or not it’s typical, doesn’t change Sacrison’s position, who sees this as a systemic problem.

“It’s apparently a common practice, which makes me even more annoyed,” he said.

The idea of a wild horse eco-sanctuary was originally proposed in Washington D.C. by Saving America’s Mustang founder Madeleine Pickens. SAM is slated to manage the eco-sanctuary. That is who Sacrison and others believe should foot the EIS bill.

Pickens’ proposal piqued the BLM’s interest, Miller said. The BLM realized the current management technique of gathering wild horses and placing them in long-term holding in the Midwest wasn’t practical nor was leaving horses alone until the range was overpopulated. Soon after, it began soliciting ideas for sanctuaries. The agency received a few proposals; Pickens’ was selected.

“(The sanctuary) really is a BLM effort to manage public horses and care for public horses in a unique fashion,” Miller said. And, the BLM is responsible for managing the herd.

Sacrison views that as a convenient, but ultimately disingenuous, answer.

“It’s the Bureau of Land Management. Not the Bureau of Horse Management,” he said. “To push it off as a public sector rather than a private sector thing. Well, when it suits the agencies they call it a public sector responsibility.”

“All of the different agencies, when they have a project that they really want, they have the ability themselves to decree that this needs to be funded in the interest of the nation. In a lot of these cases, it’s the taxpayers who are getting gored,” he added.

Click (HERE) to visit the Elko Daily and to join the Conversation

Public Funds to Pay for Pickens Desert Equine Disneyland Study

Published by the Elko Daily Free Press

“These horses are going to kill that country…”

“This is a case where dumb meets dumber.  Maddy Pickens trying to build a petting zoo for castrated BLM geldings calling them wild horses and in so doing condemns the true wild horses on 3 HMAs while the local rubes don’t know the difference between a horse and a jack rabbit (most consider the six grade to be their Senior Year, and it shows).  Personally, I believe that they deserve each other.  It’s disgusting!!!” ~ R.T.

Pay the money and you can see non-reproducing herds of captive horses…Yippieeee

ELKO — From the onset, certain locals have opposed the idea of a wild horse eco-sanctuary as a tool for managing the range. Objections were raised recently over federal dollars paying for the project’s scoping.

The Northeast Nevada Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary is to be located about 25 miles south of Wells on more than 500,000 acres of public land and about 14,000 acres of private land. It will be federally owned but privately run.

The eco-sanctuary is in its early stages and still at least one and a half years and many steps down the road.

Most recently, the Bureau of Land Management hired a contractor — Environmental Management and Planning Solutions Inc. — to guide the development of an environmental impact statement, which will require the company to scope the project, collect and analyze data, and draft the document.

Ralph Sacrison, chairman of the Elko County Natural Resources and Management Advisory Committee, asked Elko District BLM Associate District Manager Dave Overcast at a meeting earlier this month why taxpayers were on the hook for EIS costs. A mining company for instance, he argued, involved with a project on public land would be responsible for funding a similar study.

Sacrison suggested Save America’s Mustangs — the group that will manage the eco-sanctuary and brainchild of Madeleine Pickens — pay the contractor.

“How come, suddenly, when someone wants to study mustangs I (a taxpayer) have to foot the bill?” Sacrison said.

The difference between the two examples, project manager Terri Dobis said in an interview, is that managing wild horses is a BLM responsibility. In this case, the BLM asked for horse and burro management ideas and an eco-sanctuary was decided upon. A gold mine exploring for ore on public land would do so by approaching the agency, not the other way around. That mine then would be responsible for financing costs of environmental analysis.

Committee member and former state assemblyman John Carpenter, who facetiously asked Overcast if those conducting the study were cowboys, doubted EMPSi had any on-the-ground knowledge of wild horses gained through ranching and being around horses.

“I don’t believe any of these people know anything about managing horses. They’ve never lived with wild horses like I have,” he said. “You cannot manage them. Pretty soon they get so mean and they get so smart that you cannot manage them.”

To do so, he said, many large fences would need to be constructed and even then, a permanent concentration of horses could dramatically alter the range.

“These horses are going to kill that country,” Carpenter said.

The company provided a proposal that was reviewed before the bid was accepted, according to Dobis. The BLM took into account EMPSi’s knowledge and competence.

“EMPSi has extensive experience with BLM Nevada,” Dobis said. “They have people on staff with experience with horses. They are qualified — otherwise we wouldn’t be working with them.”

Yet to be released is the amount the BLM is paying EMPSi. At the advisory board meeting, Carpenter asked how much the contract for the environmental impact statement cost. Overcast said he didn’t have that information with him.

Dobis passed a request made by the Free Press for the contract amount on to contract specialist Susan Corbeil. Corbeil passed the same request on to the BLM State office Public Affairs Specialist Chris Rose.

Rose said he needed to get the information from the project manager and contract specialist — Dobis and Corbeil.

The target date for the record of decision is June 2014.

“Our actual scoping period has ended but we are still taking ideas and we still want public involvement,” Dobis said. “We really do want public involvement. It’s really important that we get that.”

To make a suggestion or a comment, call the BLM Elko District office at 753-0200 and ask for Terri Dobis.

Another Piece of the Pickens Wild Horse Eco-resort

story by  Larry Hyslop of the Elko Daily Free Press

“They will most likely view these domestic horses…”

Madeleine Pickens at the 2011International Equine Conference ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Lots of recent talk has revolved around the Northeastern Nevada wild horse eco-sanctuary proposed by Madeline Pickens’ group, Saving America’s Mustangs (SAM). It would hold BLM captive wild horses on an eco-sanctuary created out of the Spruce Grazing Allotment.

SAM has another plan involving domestic horses on private ground and on two grazing allotments. Their 560 horses were originally gathered off the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe’s Reservation and purchased by Ms. Pickens at the Fallon Auction Barn.

The Warm Creek Ranch is undergoing a grazing permit renewal, during which the BLM is completing a routine Environmental Assessment. In the permit, the species of grazers on the Snow Water Lake and Warm Creek Allotments is being changed from cattle to horses. SAM could later return to cattle but not both at the same time. This is a routine change that other Nevada ranches have received.

The conversion from cattle to horses is being done at a 1 horse equals 1.2 cattle, since a horse processes more forage than a cow. Whereas the old grazing permit for the Snow Water Lake Allotment and Warm Creek Allotment allowed no more than 235 cattle, the new permit allows only 200 horses. These horses would spend about eight months on these grazing allotments, which are public land.

These are domestic horses and therefore, must carry brands on public land. This part of the eco-sanctuary does not involve any federally-managed wild horses. The use of these allotments accounts for less than half of the ranch’s horses and the rest will stay on private ground all year.

Although most of the Warm Creek Ranch is on the East side of U.S. 93, south of Wells, the Warm Creek and part of the Snow Water Lake Allotment is located on the west side of the highway. This will necessitate moving horses across the highway twice a year. The permit renewal also stipulates drilling two new wells and repairing three other wells. If the permit is granted with no problems, horses could be on the allotments next spring.

I asked Madeline Pickens about her plans for ecotourism. During the first year, visitors will arrive mostly as tour bus groups. These groups will be taken out on horse-drawn wagons to a viewing stand where they may be served lunch. They will most likely view these domestic horses, since the eco-sanctuary wild horses will be too dispersed for easy viewing. Madeline also described possible custom safaris where people might enter the eco-sanctuary on horses and camp for three-four days while viewing horses.

When asked how the eco-sanctuary process was advancing, she replied “they (the BLM) can take as long as they want.” She says with the long-term holding costs for captive wild horses and hay prices, the BLM is wasting taxpayers’ money. “The door is open for them”, she and SAM are ready to accommodate the BLM.

Click (HERE) to visit the Elko Daily Free Press and to Comment

Money, Ego and the Failure to Save Wild Horses and Burros

OpEd by R.T. Fitch ~ volunteer president/co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“There is a foul odor blowing in from the west and it is not the smell of fresh ink!”

Wild Horses in Holding ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

In the past 36 hours there has been a whirlwind of hysteria swirling around an incomplete article on captured American wild horses and burros being sent to slaughter under the watchful eye of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the very agency charged with protecting these national treasures.  David Philipps published said article on what is touted to be an investigative piece on the possibility of a kill buyer purchasing captured wild horses from the BLM and then shipping them off to slaughter but Philipps grievously failed to wait for the story to conclude with final proof and verification of exactly when, how and where the horses actually went.

Philipps’ itchy trigger finger, and that of an alleged wild horse advocate, has resulted in outing an investigation that could have had significant legal merit and long term benefit for the wild equines and all for what?  Easy answer; money, ego, immaturity and the chance to be in the spotlight with the wild horses and burros, once again, being the victims and paying the price.

In the course of preparing his article Philipps had contacted dozens of longtime, legitimate equine advocates for information, background stats and FOIA data, everyone was willing to help but in exchange for those resources Philipps was:

  • made aware that a premature publication of an article, without documented proof of where the horses actually ended up (not just assumptions) would compromise other investigations.
  • told about Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Martha Mendoza, who did gather all the facts in her investigations.
  • advised to have verifiable documentation and to have all his ducks in a row before he “broke” this story.

Didn’t happen!

This is not a game.  It is about the wild horses, burros and the brave people who voluntarily put their lives on the line to investigate the operations of kill buyers like Dennis Chavez.

Dave Philips made phone calls.  He called Tom Davis directly.  He called people in Kinney County, Texas, where the horses “appeared” to be shipped, to ask if anyone had seen a lot of horses on any of the local ranches.  He seemed to lack the foresight (or guidance) to see that this would “tip off” the locals, and make it harder for those in the field to track the movement of the shipments of the wild horses and to observe hauling and the drop off points.

Carelessness like this puts the lives of volunteer investigators in the field at risk and does not encompass the big picture of shutting this blood trade down once and for all.

The end result of what occurred above produced nothing more than a “he said, she said” tale that touches on some verifiable facts (which is good) but in the end misses the entire point as the final facts are not verified.

What will this limited information accomplish?  Will the BLM, which acts with impunity, just continue its shell game by replacing Tom Davis with another hauler?  The BLM’s investigation of Tom Davis seems to be another internal investigation, and we know what happens with those.  Will Sally Spencer be fired?  Will the BLM stop?  What next?

And what of the alleged advocate(s) who immediately jumped upon the coattails of Philipps in an effort to twist a spotlight in their direction.  One such individual went so far as to post the article on their website with an inserted preamble declaring that their “organization” was instrumental in in this “investigation” while closing with another panhandling plea for, once again, money to support an individual and NOT going to help the horses.  Not one other advocate or organization did this.

But the smell of collusion does not stop there; enter Madeline Pickens from stage left within a few hours of the article’s publication she issued an email blast to her fans of the Mustang “Tombstone” project, it appeared as if she almost knew the publication was coming.

Mrs. Pickens stated:

“Please see the article below by Dave Phillips that was just released this afternoon in ProPublica. This establishes that our wild horses are in a state of emergency. This proves beyond a reasonable doubt that we need to move these horses to safer places, as opposed to slaughter. Saving America’s Mustangs has for years now offered and presented an alternative to this slaughter horror show, and yet we continue to wait for the government to sign off on a plan that will provide a whole new direction for the wild horses. There is little doubt there is an another alternative that can save these horses better than what we have presented. The BLM knows it, the American people know it, and we have known this for a longtime. It’s now up to the BLM and the American public to approve this plan and do the right thing and give these horses a safe and secure home like they deserve.   Sincerely,  Madeleine Pickens

It certainly appears as if Mrs. Pickens is eager to have the Saving America’s Mustangs eco-resort plan seen as the only answer to Tom Davis hauling wild horses to who knows where.   Mrs. Picken’s eco-resort plan, based on information given to the public, is to have 900 geldings (a non-reproducing herd) put on her eco-resort, likely resulting in the eradication of 3 Herd Management Areas and the rest of the wild horses on those HMAs that will then be removed and sent to short and long term holding and at risk of going to slaughter.  “Doink”

We have another idea:

What about keeping family bands of wild horses on their OWN legally designated HMAs?

And what about the “alleged” advocate(s) (above) that immediately jumped upon this incomplete “slaughter expose’” bandwagon along with Madeleine?  Aren’t they the same ones who have received gifts of money and goods from Mrs. Pickens?  Are they not tied to her, even now, and under her influence due to their indebtedness?  Would they have a clear, concise, unfettered view of the “big picture”?  Do their operations/organizations and backgrounds stand up to minimal and legal public scrutiny?  The plot thickens and with each layer of the onion you peel it gets uglier and uglier.  Beware; there are those who walk amongst us who are not what you perceive them to be.

That’s enough said about that but please allow me to make it perfectly clear that we have been screaming from the rooftops that this reprehensible slaughter of our national icons has been going on for years and just when it appears that the facts might finally be obtained and the operation legitimately exposed a couple of fringe individuals crawl out of the woodwork screaming “look at me”, beg for money and gut an investigation that could have actually helped and saved the lives of tens of thousands of wild horses.  The more you think about it, the more disgusting it gets.

On both sides, folks, it’s all about the money…and NOT about the wild horses and burros.

<contact R.T. at rtfitch@wildhorsefreedomfederation.org>

New Pickens for T. Boone Pickens?

by Debbie Coffey ~Director of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation (from the pages of the PPJ Gazette)

Pickens’ “Eco-Sanctuary” Plan is a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

A current Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse “eco-sanctuary” proposal by T. Boone Pickens’ wife, Madeleine Pickens (Saving America’s Mustangs) is for a NON-REPRODUCING herd, so HOW, exactly, is this supposed to save America’s mustangs?

Stallion of Antelope Valley HMA ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

It’s important to take a close look at what the BLM is doing with this plan (and with other eco-sanctuary plans), which also seems to be a new way to package the closing off of public lands to the public.

Where you could once get out of your car and walk on public land, will you now be fenced out of/off of any public lands?  Where you could once drive your car on public roads, will the “eco-tours” on the eco-sanctuary put you on buses or on wagons (like the BLM “tours” of the Indian Lakes Rd. short term holding facility in Fallon, NV)?

Will you now have to pay (either by fee or tax dollars) to see something you could see for free in the past?  Where you could once camp on public lands, will you now have to pay for accommodations at an eco-sanctuary?  Where you could once travel at any time of the day, will you now only be allowed to “visit” during certain hours?

Three Nevada wild horse Herd Management Areas (HMAs) are to be included as part of the “Northeast Nevada” (Saving America’s Mustangs) eco-sanctuary: the Spruce-Pequop HMA, the Goshute HMA and the Antelope Valley HMA.

Saving America’s Mustangs will be using the Spruce Allotment, and grazing horses instead of cattle.  How will the wild horses on the HMA be kept separate from the horses on the eco-sanctuary?  It seems that there will need to be a lot of interior fences on public lands.

Removing protected wild horses

The BLM is removing wild horses from their federally protected wild horse Herd Management Areas while they over designate many other “uses.”  So much so, that it looks likes the wild horse Herd Management Areas are for everything BUT the wild horses.  For example, in a land use map of the Spruce-Pequop HMA, the HMA seems to contain Department of Defense and National Antelope Refuge (NAR) areas and many uses other than the wild horses.

It’s important to note these maps show land “use” designations like E-4 Use Area, C-1 Use Area, D-2 Use Area, etc.  These designations don’t seem to be listed in the BLM Land Use Planning Handbook (

H-1601-1).  So where can we find out what these designations mean?  More importantly, what inventory system is our public lands a part of?

The Saving America’s Mustangs eco-sanctuary will use about 14,000 acres of private land, and 508,000 acres of public land.  The BLM has plans of “restructuring” the three HMA boundaries and “revising management objectives.”

The BLM hasn’t yet given the public any details of how it plans to “restructure” the three HMAs.  A crucial part of this eco-sanctuary plan has been glossed over.

The Wild Free Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971, even with revisions that watered it down, states under “Limitation of Authority,” “Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize the Secretary to relocate wild free roaming horses or burros to areas of public lands where they do not presently exist.“

Now look at the map of the proposed eco-sanctuary:  There seems to be public lands in this plan that aren’t part of the HMAs.

Has Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, exceeded his authority?

Wild horses, by law, are “to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands,” so how can the BLM possibly claim they’re “maintaining a natural thriving ecological balance” when they zero out HMAs (remove all of the wild horses and burros) or remove so many wild horses and burros that they risk the variability and viability of the herds?

And then there’s the very questionable issue of the BLM actually putting wild horses and burros on private property, knowing that the law states that wild free roaming horses and burros lose their status as wild free roaming horses and burros when they are transferred to private maintenance and are then no longer protected under the Wild Free Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971.

In the Saving America’s Mustang eco-sanctuary proposal, the BLM states “Those areas of the HMA that aren’t part of the eco-sanctuary will be evaluated to determine their ability to sustain a viable horse population with reduced acreage and water resources.”

Let’s cut to the chase.

There will only be about 7% left of the Spruce-Pequop HMA, for example, so the BLM will probably conclude that this newly reduced area of the HMA won’t sustain a viable, healthy herd, and will then use the excuse of not enough land/forage/water to roundup the remaining wild horses.  Will those wild horses then be sent to another eco-sanctuary or to long-term holding in another state?

While I commend Madeleine Pickens for saving hundreds of horses from going to slaughter and nothing in this article is meant to question what seems to be her good and generous intentions, the public needs to play the devil’s advocate with the BLM and consider all aspects of this plan.

Saving America’s Mustangs has 66 water rights in 5 Basins, many on the HMAs.  What if the eco-sanctuary isn’t approved?  Saving America’s Mustangs will still have all those water rights in and near the 3 HMAs.  Will Saving America’s Mustangs then apply for a change of use for all of the water permits?

Of course, the elephant in the room is that T. Boone Pickens (Mesa Water) is on the Advisory Board of Saving America’s Mustangs.  This could make you wonder if he’ll ever give advice about the water rights at any point in time.  Just last year in Texas, Mesa Water was in a legal fight with the Texas Water Development Board over underground water goals.  Also, the executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality dismissed Mesa Water’s request for an inquiry and to possibly dissolve local water conservation districts, dismiss their boards or force them to change their goals.

If the eco-sanctuary is approved, what happens in 20-30 years when all of the horses in the non-reproducing herd have died?  Will we even have any wild horses left on public lands in another 20-30 years to put on this eco-sanctuary?  Where will those horses be removed from?  Will the BLM put another non-reproducing herd on this eco-sanctuary?  Where is all of this heading?  The BLM plans more eco-sanctuaries, so the Saving America’s Mustangs plan seems to be setting the stage for more to come.

The BLM had several “open houses” about this eco-sanctuary plan, to offer brochures and show maps to the public, but the BLM has not had a formal public meeting to listen to public comments.  In a formal public meeting, statements are on the record, and there are minutes for the public to read (even if it takes the BLM many months to type up and post them).  It seems as if this eco-sanctuary is already a done deal, and that the BLM is only feigning interest in public comment.

Did any of the maps the BLM showed at the open houses show the two new mining projects that are just 10-15 miles north of the eastern part of the Spruce-Pequop HMA: the West Pequop Exploration Project and the Long Canyon Mine?  These will likely use millions of gallons of water from the aquifer in coming years.

What about the money?  On the Saving America’s Mustangs website, it states: “the foundation still needs money to manage the ranch, the farm, repair the fences, install new irrigation, rebuild homes for the help, and care for the horses.”  It also states “The Foundation provides the government with: (1) abundant long term capacity for horses at about the same cost, $500 per year per horse, as its current long term holding facilities…”

BLM’s non-reproducing herds idea is a plan for extinction.

At the National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board meeting, it seems that Dean Bolstad, Deputy Division Chief of the Wild Horse & Burro Program, announced that both the Saving America’s Mustangs and the Wyoming eco-sanctuaries would contain non-reproducing herds.  Zachary Reichold (BLM) told a wild horse advocate that the idea for non-reproducing herds originated with himself and Dean Bolstad.  Do these two BLM employees who arbitrarily made this decision have more power than you, the American public?

You can, and should, send your written comments regarding the eco-sanctuary plan, by September 19, 2012, to the project e-mail address:

EcoSanctuaryComments@blm.gov or to the

BLM Elko District Office,

Wells Field Office,

3900 E. Idaho Street,

Elko, NV 89801,

Attn: Wild Horse Eco-Sanctuary, or fax at (775) 753-0385. 

You also pay the salaries of and can send comments to Dean Bolstad at dbolstad@blm.gov, to Amy Lueders, BLM Nevada State Director at alueders@blm.gov, and to Ken Miller, the BLM Elko District Manager, at kmiller@blm.gov.  You can read all of the information about the eco-sanctuary here:

This eco-sanctuary plan is not only about the wild horses, it’s about our public lands.  The BLM wild horse eco-sanctuary plan is a “public – private partnership” that seems like it will ultimately close off public lands to the public and one way or another, make you pay for what you once had for free.


The Wild Free Roaming Horses & Burros Act of 1971:


BLM info for the eco-sanctuary:













BLM Land Use Planning handbook:


Click (HERE) to visit the PPJ Gazette and to Comment