Saturday was one of those almost but not quite days for the Campbell County boys soccer team. Top-ranked and consensus favorite to win the Class 4A state soccer tournament, the Camels fell just …
BUTTE, Mont. — The Bureau of Land Management is proceeding with a plan to move 700 wild horses to a ranch in southwestern Montana, despite the fact that the owners of neighboring ranches are concerned about whether the land can sustain and the fences contain the animals.
The first truckloads of horses are due to arrive at the Spanish Q Ranch northwest of Ennis as early as Wednesday, The Montana Standard (http://bit.ly/W8wsl4) reported.
Carolyn Chad, acting deputy division chief for the BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Program, said all of the geldings are expected to be at the ranch by March 18.
The Spanish Q has a 10-year contract with the BLM to house the horses at a cost of $1.36 per animal per day, much less than the average $5.50 cost at short-term facilities in Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Utah and Oklahoma
The ranch will hold horses that have been captured to control population levels on public land and have not been adopted.
Neighboring ranchers appealed the move to the Interior Board of Land Appeals in December, but because the IBLA did not act within 45 days of the request to stop the transfer, the BLM said it has the right to go ahead.
Efforts by the Spanish Q to become a long-term holding facility for the BLM started in 2009.
Chad said an inspection was scheduled before the transfer to ensure the ranch can meet its contractual obligations to care for the horses.
Bozeman attorney James Goetz, who represents a neighboring rancher, was surprised the BLM decided to move forward with the transfer.
"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 told The Standard. "I imagine the expense of hauling a lot of horses to Montana is pretty major. It doesn't seem like a prudent decision."
Chad said the cost-savings, the health of the horses and her confidence that the Spanish Q will be a successful long-term holding facility make it worth moving the horses.
"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."
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, so periodically the agency rounds up animals and houses them in short-term and long-term facilities. About 49,000 horses live in such facilities.