RENO, Nev. – Federal land managers agreed Thursday to spend the next two years studying a proposal by the wife of oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens to establish an eco-sanctuary for nearly 1,000 wild horses across more than 900 square miles of Nevada.
The Bureau of Land Management will conduct a formal environmental assessment of the proposal offered by Madeleine Pickens and her nonprofit group, Saving America’s Mustangs, as a way to minimize the need to round up excess animals on the public range, BLM Director Bob Abbey said.
The agency also will analyze potential economic and social effects of the reserve that would stretch across more than 580,000 acres of mostly public and some private property Pickens recently bought south of U.S. Interstate 80 between Wells and the Utah line.
Under the proposal, Saving America’s Mustangs would improve and maintain fencing and water wells and oversee management of the eco-sanctuary horses, which would remain under federal ownership.
Saving America’s Mustangs also would provide Western history, wild horse-related education and promote ecotourism at the site to be known as “Mustang Monument” about 70 miles southeast of Elko.
“We look forward to the day when you can come to Mustang Monument and behold the wonders of that beautiful piece of heaven in northern Nevada, and the magnificent wild horses that will spend their lives there,” Pickens said in a statement to supporters on the group’s Web site on Thursday.
Abbey said the BLM-managed public lands that would be part of the proposed eco-sanctuary – 530,000 acres known as the Spruce grazing allotment – would continue to be publicly accessible for a variety of outdoor activities, including big game hunting. He said the proposal may provide a way to help the BLM reduce the size of overpopulated herds while ensuring healthy rangeland conditions.
Some Elko County ranchers have opposed the plan for fear it will lead to reductions in livestock grazing in the area.