By Santa Ynez Valley News
Return to Freedom has rescued 73 Calico Mountain mares from Nevada, the Lompoc wild horse sanctuary’s largest single rescue in its 13-year history.
The horses were delivered by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to temporary quarters in Fallon, Nev., and moved to Return to Freedom’s site near Lompoc on Dec. 15, according to Jill Anderson of Return to Freedom.
The organization intends to reunite the mares with 20 wild Calico stallions the group has already rescued, Anderson said by e-mail.
The goal is to recreate family bands for the horses, to allow them to live as natural a life as possible at a spacious natural habitat preserve in northwestern Nevada, she said.
The mares are “sale authority” horses, meaning that they are older and could have been sold for as little as $10 a head or shipped to government holding facilities in the Midwest, where they wouldn’t have had the chance to live as wild mustangs in family groups, according to Return to Freedom.
“We’re pleased to offer these elder mares, who along with the stallions carry the wisdom of their herds, a better life and a chance to live in the family social groups that are integral to the life of a wild horse,” said Neda DeMayo, founder and CEO of Return to Freedom. “Return to Freedom seeks to give something back to these wild horses who lost everything in the BLM roundup nearly one year ago.”
The horses were captured between Dec. 28, 2009, and Feb. 4, 2010, in one of the BLM’s largest and most controversial helicopter roundups in years.
The majority of captured mustangs have been trucked to long-term holding facilities in the Midwest, where maintenance will cost taxpayers an estimated $800,000 per year over the 20- to 30-year lifespan of the horses, DeMayo said.
In addition to creating a preserve on private lands adjacent to and within the Calico Mountains Complex, Return to Freedom is partnering with Soldier Meadows Ranch to propose a pilot program for on-the-range management of the wild horses in the three BLM Herd Management Areas.
“We are proposing a new direction for the management of wild horses that keeps them on the range and saves millions of tax dollars. This historic partnership with a local rancher expands options for the preservation of natural habitat, wildlife and wild horse herds,” said DeMayo.
“We are hopeful that the BLM will accept our proposal to create a pilot program to maintain healthy herds on healthy ranges in the historically unique and beautiful Calico Mountains Complex in Nevada.”
Return to Freedom Sanctuary, incorporated in 1997, is dedicated to preserving the freedom, diversity and habitat of America’s wild horses through sanctuary, education and conservation.
The sanctuary has rescued and relocated about 1,000 horses over the past decade, and manages intact bands representing various strains of America’s wild horse herds at its 310-acre sanctuary near Lompoc.