Mustang Monument started off as just the proverbial glimmer in Madeleine Pickens’ eye, back in 2006. She was inspired by the dilemma of the Bureau of Land Management, with the problem of what to do with all of the wild mustangs. Thousands of them are rounded up annually, taken off the public grazing lands designated for cattle. Containment of the horses is handled in the most minimal way possible: They are kept in holding pens with no shelter from the elements.
Mustang Monument, in Wells, Nevada, was developed as an eco-resort by billionaire Pickens. According to the Mustang Monument website, she purchased 900 acres of land, after assuring the endorsement of two senators, Harry Reid and Dianne Feinstein. She also had the support of Henri Bisson, then head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), whom she met with at the Wild Horse and Burro meeting in Reno on November 17, 2008.
Her intentions were to provide a sanctuary for the mustangs, in addition to offering an upscale guest resort to help support this effort.
According to the timeline published on the Mustang Monument website, efforts to raise awareness to the plight of mustangs, and support for an eco-resort, included an event at the Smithsonian in Washington and a float in the 2011 Rose Bowl Parade.
Pickens’ efforts to publicize the plight of mustangs included hiring a PR firm to help promote the resort, and a team of attorneys to help with whatever regulations were required in working with BLM. NBC News reported that Pickens adopted 600 Mustangs from the BLM.
“It’s wonderful to see them out here in the open. When some of them arrived here, they had babies by their sides. They’ve all grown up now and they’re living healthy lives.”
Guests, some of whom came from as far away as China and Australia, were treated to a “cowboy experience”: off-road excursions, hiking, or quieter activities such as lessons in Native American beading or making moccasins. The adventure wasn’t cheap: Guests could stay in a luxury teepee for $1,000 a night, or a “safari cottage” for $1,500.
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Bethany Drysdale, a spokeswoman for Travel Nevada, said the resort was attracting new people to the state.
“The price point is certainly not for the average family traveler, but I think that it opens up a whole new market to discover in Nevada.”
In 2014, some red tape arose when BLM and local officials required the resort to have a recreation permit to take guests from one property to an adjoining property: extending over a small portion of public land. The Monument site asserts that, to this day, the permit still has not been issued.
In October, 2015, Pickens was told that the paperwork had been misplaced.
Meanwhile, President Obama has approved a $1.3 billion budget for the BLM in the 2017 fiscal year. BLM Director Neil Kornze said the funding would help with some of the issues.
“The President’s budget gives the BLM the resources we need to manage the public lands on a landscape scale. This funding will help us continue to devise 21st century solutions to the challenges we face.”
According to a press release issued by the Department of the Interior, a portion of this budget will be used to manage wild horses and burros.
“With more than 100,000 horses in BLM’s care both on and off the range, the agency is redoubling its efforts to reduce the number of horses in holding facilities. The FY 2017 budget request supports new, innovative efforts to secure safe and cost-effective placement for unadopted animals, including proposed legislation to better facilitate the transfer of animals to other public entities at the local, state, and Federal levels. This proposal will work in tandem with other proactive efforts beginning in 2016 to better manage the nation’s large and growing population of wild horses and burros. Each animal placed into private care can save taxpayers almost $50,000.”
By March, 2016, the permits to open the Mustang Monument sanctuary had still not been issued.
[Image via Dennis W. Donohue/Shutterstock]