Several weeks ago the 12,000+ acre Ortiz Mountain Ranch, AKA the Ball Ranch was to be purchased by the NM Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department for $2.9 million from Gov. Bill Richardson's discretionary portion of the federal stimulus funds. A portion of the ranch was to be set aside as a wild horse sanctuary. Both our gubernatorial candidates, Diane Denish and Susana Martinez oppose using the federal stimulus funds for the purchase. The purchase was scheduled to go before the eight member NM Board of Finance in October but has been tabled until the next board meeting on November 16. Richardson is president and Denish is a member of the board.
There is both strong dissension against and support for the land purchase. Some claim it will boost the economy of the small villages along the "Turquoise Trail" as a tourist draw with the wild horses nearby. Others believe we should be spending the money where it's needed more, on schools, for example.
Many believe the wild horse sanctuary will bring long-term jobs, at least a half-dozen state jobs and possibly more tourism-related employment, which is what Congress wanted the Stimulus funds used for. An economic survey estimates the sanctuary will bring an additional 30,000 visitors to the area and $3.3 million in additional business each year.
Since 1971, the BLM has managed the wild horses and burros on national forest lands with a federal budget of about $64 million a year. However, there are problems. Ranchers don't like the Mustangs because they have to share the range with their cattle. Wild horse herds can grow quickly. As a result, the BLM removes about 10,000 horses a year from the open range. Many of these are adopted out but still more live in holding pens for the rest of their lives because they are older or not adoptable.
Continuing care for these horses has caused the BLM to solicit nonprofit groups and government agencies. New Mexico officials submitted the proposal for a sanctuary for a small herd of horses and a center where the Mustangs could be trained and adopted out. If this center could adopt out 100 horses a year it would be very helpful. This combination Sanctuary and Adoption center on state land would be the first of its kind. If the state does purchase the land, the BLM will assist with the adoption center and providing the horses, and a nonprofit organization would raise funds for operating the sanctuary.
This area is very close to my house. Just last weekend, I drove past the Ranch lands on my way to a horse clinic in Santa Fe. I would so love to see a herd of Mustangs living freely out there. Maybe some of the horses from Disappointment Valley can be relocated here. We can only hope this purchase happens as planned...
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Innocent and Wild - song: Move On, artist: David Bowie, album: Lodger