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 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 Colorado, Wyoming, 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.
Bozeman attorney James Goetz, who represents a neighboring rancher, criticized the BLM's action.
"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.
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.