Pickens to the rescue

Little more than a week ago, the federal government’s General Accounting Office suggested that the Bureau of Land Management would have to start euthanizing some of the 30,000 captive wild horses and burros in its corrals.

We agreed, because those horses in captivity are literally eating up three-quarters of the BLM’s budget for its wild horse and burro program. The cost of food and other care for the captive horses will run about $27 million this year, money that should be going to range improvements, sterilization programs and other efforts to manage the wild horse herds throughout the West.

But euthanizing the unadoptable horses may no longer be the only option. This week, the cavalry came riding to the rescue in the form of race-horse breeder Madelein Pickens, the wife of billionaire businessman T. Boone Pickens.

Mrs. Pickens said she wants to create a permanent retirement ranch for all of the 30,000 wild horses and burros now in federal holding pens, and for animals that may be culled from the range in the future.

She envisions a ranch that would be open to the public for visits and perhaps camping trips.

Pickens has met with BLM officials, who welcomed her idea, and with politicians such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose home state of Nevada holds the greatest number of wild horses.

But Pickens plan is not a slam dunk. She wants Congress to create a special tax credit to encourage people to donate to the wild horse ranch. That may be a tough sell at a time of increasing budget deficits and a spreading recession.

And she wants to acquire 1 million acres on which the animals can roam once they are sterilized. She hopes to purchase private land and lease federal lands. But nearly all federal lands in the West are already used by somebody, such as ranchers with grazing permits. How those users will be dealt with has not yet been detailed.

In fact, there are many questions remaining about Pickens’ proposal. Even so, it is a creative and laudable idea by someone who loves horses and is willing to use her considerable resources to help. Congress should give her plan careful consideration.


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