BLM moving 700 wild horses to Ennis area ranch; neighbors miffed

horse silhouette

(Personal comment – Let’s all take this opportunity to do some mathematical calculations. Cost of leaving the wild horses alone – $0. Cost of removal – estimated at $1,000 per horse (depending on quantity removed at one time). Cost of long term storage – $1.38 to $5.50 per DAY per horse ($41.40 to $165 per MONTH). Income from welfare ranchers for one cow/calf per MONTH – $1.35. Remember, the horses are removed and immediately replaced by cattle. Also note – the BLM is complaining that they are losing money. If I had to calculate why, I think I have one answer. – Jerry)

 FRANCIS DAVIS Montana Standard, Feb 21, 2013


Wild horses roam federal lands in several states. The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with a plan to move 700 wild horses to the Spanish Q Ranch northwest of Ennis.

Wild horses roam federal lands in several states. The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with a plan to move 700 wild horses to the Spanish Q Ranch northwest of Ennis.

BUTTE — The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with a plan to move 700 wild horses to the Spanish Q Ranch northwest of Ennis, with the first truckloads of horses due to arrive as early as next week — despite the fact that pending appeals have yet to be ruled on by the Interior Board of Land Appeals.


Adjacent landowners of the Spanish Q Ranch filed the appeals in December to stop the transfer of the wild horses. However, because the IBLA, an administrative court for the Department of the Interior, did not rule within 45 days on the appeals’ request to stop the transfer, the BLM said it has the right to go ahead with the planned move, which has been in the works since 2009.


Carolyn Chad, acting deputy division chief for the BLM’s National Wild Horse and Burro Program, cited cost savings as one of the main reasons the program is beginning the transfer of the geldings from short-term holding facilities to the long-term facility near Ennis.


About 300 horses will arrive in eight truckloads between Feb. 27 and March 1, Chad said. By March 18, Chad expects all 700 geldings to be at the ranch.


The horses are being moved from short-term facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma, where the cost per day, per head averages $5.50, while at the Spanish Q the cost per day, per head will be only $1.36.


Since the IBLA has yet to rule on the appeals, the horses might be forced to be moved again in the future. However, Chad said that along with the cost-savings, the health of the horses and her confidence in the viability of the Spanish Q as a long-term facility are worth moving the horses now.


“We could be asked to move the horses in the future,” Chad said. “There are no guarantees, but we are confident that the Spanish Q will be successful.”


Bozeman attorney James Goetz, who represents Valley Garden Ranch, one of the neighboring landowners appealing the horse transfer, is surprised that the BLM is proceeding despite the pending appeals.


“I think there’s a lot of chutzpah to spend taxpayers’ money by putting (the horses) on that property and then having to take the risk of having to move them,” Goetz said in an interview with The Montana Standard. “I imagine the expense of hauling a lot of horses to Montana is pretty major. It doesn’t seem like a prudent decision.”


Goetz said his client had issues with the fencing at the Spanish Q, as well as the environmental impact of the horses, and whether the ranch itself could adequately sustain that many horses.


The Spanish Q Ranch, owned by Greg and Karen Rice, is about 15,000 acres. The ranch includes BLM land that is leased by the Rices. The BLM land must be separated from the contracted area where the horses will graze. The length of the contract between BLM and the ranch is for 10 years.


Chad said an inspection of the Spanish Q facility will occur early next week, before the transfer begins, to ensure that the ranch can meet its contractual obligations regarding the care of the horses. While sensitive to the concerns of those who are appealing the transfer, Chad said her agency’s priorities are protecting the environment and caring for the horses.


“(The appeals) overriding concern is that the horses would not be successfully contained on the Spanish Q facility,” Chad said. “Our goals are not to negatively impact the environment, as well as the long-term health and well-being of the horses.”


Chad said the horses will be initially kept on lower-elevation feeding grounds for two months to acclimate to each other and their new environment before being released to larger pastures. She said about half the horse will be under six years of age.


Part of the issue is a numbers game. The BLM was mandated to manage wild horses and burros by the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971. The BLM estimates there are over 37,000 wild horses and burros roaming BLM rangeland in 10 western states. The agency estimates that number is 11,000 more than can adequately coexist with other resources on those rangelands.


Periodically the wild horses and burros are rounded up off the open range, and housed in short-term and long-term holding facilities. About 49,000 exist in these holding facilities.


Goetz, however, said he thinks the BLM is moving too quickly. He’s also concerned about the precedent it might set. Presently, Montana has wild horses only in one BLM management area in the Pryor Mountains south of Billings, so the Spanish Q Ranch would be the first holding facility in Montana.


“I don’t think all the pieces are in place,” he said. “They have appeals from neighbors on all four sides. And the whole action of moving wild mustangs to southwest Montana is unprecedented.

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AUTHOR: Jerry Finch
  • LNorman

    Not so unprecedented as they used to roam Montana freely. The closer they get these horses to the border, the easier it is to get them to slaughter. As you stated, free and wild on their legal domain costs the taxpayer zero but hey gotta let those 7+million welfare cattle destroy the land and waste as much taxpayer revenue as possible. It’s the American way.

    February 22, 2013
  • Sue

    So the BLM takes them off public lands (paid for by the taxpayer) and puts them on private lands and then PAYS those individuals for use of the land?

    What a deal!!

    Plus, of course, all the incurred expenses of rounding them up in the first place, shipping them to OK (and elsewhere) and then shipping them to MT again…..

    This ain’t rocket science.

    February 22, 2013
  • Morgan Griffith

    We pay for the horses to be rounded up risking injury and death either at the time of roundup or in the near months, we pay for them to gelded & PZP’d and minimal veterinarian “care”, pay for them to be hauled to STH facilites and adoption events, eventually making their way to LTH and apparently out the back door to slaughter (wonder if we reimburse the kb’s their transport costs?).
    The one thing we NEED to pay for is independent corroboration of the numbers still wild AND the actual numbers in LTH. As was stated, all this expense could be zero if the wild horse issue was handled with any degree of intelligence and science.

    February 22, 2013
  • Robynne Catheron

    Stupid, stupid, stupid. That’s my tax dollars they’re misusing to give that couple. WTH?

    February 22, 2013
  • I agree that wild horses who have already been removed from the range and gelded are better off in LTH than STH, if they have no chance of adoption, which most don’t. BUT, if 700 are moved to the Spanish Q Ranch and they are being paid to house and care for the horses, I expect the Public to be able to visit and confirm their care, and an accounting of all 700 geldings… No mysteriously missing horses as we have seen in the recent pass (1700+ missing and indications are that they were sold to a kill buyer and slaughtered). Then we move forward in our fight to keep the horses on their land, and support the efforts of Laura Leigh & Attorney Gordon Cohen, who are challenging BLM in their home courts.

    February 22, 2013
    • Valerie Wehmueller

      Paula, I agree with you completely!

      February 25, 2013
  • Jade

    Thanks for the “mathematical calculation”, Jerry! Always impressive to see numbers in black and white! As to this most recent move: it’s like watching the shell game with the walnut shells – which shell is the pea going to be under? I can’t believe this is all happening while court cases are being decided! Just exactly who is driving the bus for the BLM and allowing this crap to be instigated right under our noses? It’s insulting to everyone one of us – and the laughter from the BLM seems to be growing louder….

    February 23, 2013
  • Kathy Russell

    Study after study has been done showing that the wild mustangs have much less impact on the environment than cattle. Does the government think people don’t know how stupid they look or maybe greed has just given them tunnel vision. Maybe leaving the mustangs along, get the cattle off of our lands is just to simple of an idea to handle…it is a government department after all.

    February 23, 2013
  • Steve

    Anybody got any idea what the Rice’s contract is worth? I read yesterday one of the OK ranchers gets 2 million dollars a year from LTH basically to maintain fences.

    Seems a classic example of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission”…

    February 23, 2013
  • sandra longley

    well, they say they can feed a horse for 40.80 a month..been raising horses for over 40 years..and not buying that at all..spent plenty of time in Montana..winter comes early and stays late..its beautiful with lots of grass from the summer rain and as a result grass is waist high..putting up hay that does not rot in the field is a challenge because of summer storms

    February 23, 2013
  • Pamela Williams

    Hey, Paula, good expectations, but I don’t think LTH facilities work that way. The only one I’ve actually inquired about viewing is in Nevada, and I was told to check back often on the BLM website where they’ll post the 1 or 2 public viewing opportunities per year once they schedule them. They refused to notify me. I’ll have to ride around in their vehicle, so I and all others will only see what they want us to see. We are not allowed outside their vehicle, and there are no other opportunities to check on the horses’ welfare. It sounds like touring a prison, doesn’t it? My expectations are very low. We’ll never know if the horses in LTH facilities are being abused, sold for rodeos, starved, or sold for slaughter.

    February 23, 2013
  • sandra longley

    in my dreams we hijack those trucks and take them back to public lands and turn them loose

    February 23, 2013
    • Valerie Wehmueller

      Sandra, I’m with you 100%!! If only they hadn’t been gelded. I wish we could stop them before anymore are removed or sterilized! I wish I had the way & the nerve to pull something like that off, steal them back from the thieves!

      February 25, 2013