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The Shawnee News-Star
  • About 500 wild horses now at Montana ranch

  • ENNIS, Mont. (AP) — About 500 wild horses have arrived so far at the Spanish Q Ranch in western Montana as Bureau of Land Management officials work to reassure neighboring landowners about the long-term holding facility.
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  • ENNIS, Mont. (AP) — About 500 wild horses have arrived so far at the Spanish Q Ranch in western Montana as Bureau of Land Management officials work to reassure neighboring landowners about the long-term holding facility.
     
    The Montana Standard reports (http://bit.ly/112BMIj) the horses, all geldings, began arriving Feb. 27.
     
    Officials say about 700 horses will eventually be held at the 15,456-acre ranch with the remaining 200 arriving by Friday.
     
    "I was very surprised at how quickly they came," said Stephen Wood, whose ranch borders the Spanish Q and who, with other neighbors, attempted to block the arrival of the wild horses.
     
    The Spanish Q near Ennis 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 had the right to go ahead and move the horses.
     
    "I understand the government is under pressure, but they started this process in 2009 and they didn't do a good job informing the public back then," said Wood. "This time was even worse. All of a sudden they were coming, and it took a lot people by surprise. We thought they would rule on the appeals before the horses started arriving."
     
    Still, Wood was the only rancher who appealed the move who last month accepted an invitation to meet with the BLM and Spanish Q owners Greg and Karen Rice. Also taking part in the meeting was the BLM's Pat Fosse of the Dillon office, and two wild horse and burro specialists, Lili Thomas and Jared Bybee.
     
    Wood said his main concern is fencing between his property, the Spanish Q and BLM property. The BLM property forms a checkerboard pattern in the area.
     
    "They answered a lot of questions," Wood said. "If things change, we'll have to revisit it. (The Rices) have a contract with the BLM and (the BLM) said the situation will be monitored."
     
    No horses will be released into pastures on the Spanish Q before all fencing is installed and inspected, Carolyn Chad told the newspaper Wednesday. She's the acting deputy division chief for BLM's National Wild Horse and Burro Program.
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    Wood also said he was concerned the horses might attract wolves which could then be drawn to his cattle.
     
    "It remains to be seen what will happen," he said. "It's a big question mark."
     
    The BLM estimates there are more than 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.
     
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    Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com
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