The third wild horse ecosanctuary in the United States for off-range care of excess wild horses and burros will be located seven miles north of Lander, the Bureau of Land Management announced today. The new ecosanctuary would be operated on the 900-acre Double D Ranch, located seven miles north of Lander and would initially hold up to 100 horses, with the first horses arriving as early as the spring of 2015. The ranch is within the Wind River Indian Reservation.The ranch is located to the east of U.S. Highway 287 and east and south the Blue Sky Highway (WYO 132) between Plunkett Road and the Ethete intersection.
The BLM’s Lander Field Office issued a Decision Record, resulting from an Environmental Assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, that addresses comments from the public and adjacent landowners. The Environmental Assessment can be accessed at www.blm.gov/wy/st/en/info/NEPA/documents/lfo/ecosanctuary.html. The Decision Record, which finds no significant environmental impacts from the ecosanctuary, initiates a 30-day appeal period during which the public may express comments.
The ecosanctuary would be run by Dwayne and Denise Oldham, who own and lease portions of the Double D Ranch. It would be the second BLM-private ecosanctuary to be located in Wyoming; a 290-horse ranch is already operated by Richard and Jana Wilson on the 4,000-acre Deerwood Ranch near Centennial, Wyoming. A third ecosanctuary, known as the Mowdy Ranch, operated by Clay and Kit Mowdy, holds 153 horses on 1,280 acres and is located 12 miles northeast of Coalgate, Oklahoma, in the southeastern part of the state.
“This advances our efforts to improve the BLM’s management of and care for America’s wild horses and burros,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “Although the challenges facing our Wild Horse and Burro Program remain formidable, every step forward moves us closer to our goal of more effective and efficient stewardship of wild horses and burros, both on and off the range.”
“The Lander Field Office has worked closely with the Oldhams to ensure that proper care will be provided for the wild horses and to address the concerns of neighboring landowners,” said BLM Lander Field Manager Rick Vander Voet. “We look forward to a long, successful partnership with the Double D Ranch.”
The wild horse ecosanctuaries, which must be publicly accessible with a potential for ecotourism, help the BLM feed and care for excess wild horses that have been removed from overpopulated herds roaming Western public rangelands. The BLM enters in partnership agreements with the ecosanctuary operators, who are reimbursed at a funding level comparable to what the agency pays ranchers to care for wild horses on long-term pastures in the Midwest. The partnership agreement requires that any profits from tourism activities at the ecosanctuary must be used to defray operating costs, thus saving taxpayer dollars.
Long-term plans under the BLM-Double D partnership agreement include a learning/visitor information center, tours, gift shop, and campground. The Double D Ranch plans to invite the Eastern Shoshone Tribe and the Northern Arapahoe Tribe of the Wind River Reservation to partner in running the learning center, which will interpret Native American culture and the historic role of the horse. The Wind River Visitors Council, Lander Chamber of Commerce, and the City of Lander support the ecosanctuary and would help promote public visitation to it.
The BLM estimates that 49,209 wild horses and burros are roaming on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states, based on the latest data available, compiled as of March 1, 2014. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the BLM, as part of its management of public rangeland resources, must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to control herd sizes.
The estimated current free-roaming population exceeds by more than 22,500 the number that the BLM has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses. The maximum appropriate management level (AML) is approximately 26,684.
Off the range, as of November 2014, there were 48,447 other wild horses and burros fed and cared for at short-term corrals and long-term pastures, which compares to the BLM’s total holding capacity of 50,153. All wild horses and burros in holding, like those roaming Western public rangelands, are protected under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, as amended.
Source: County 10