CHALLIS, Idaho - A woman has come up with a way to control the wild mustang herd in Idaho.
Andrea Maki, an artist from the state of Washington, has gotten the Bureau of Land Management, the community of Challis and Custer County, and the area cattle ranchers to work together to create the Wild Love Preserve. If this model for mustang management works, it could save the horses, the environment they live in and bring new money to the tiny town of Challis.
Maki was made aware of the Challis mustang adoption program several years ago. She learned Idaho and the rest of the nation are on the brink of a crisis. There are way too many horses running on way too little range land.
She said she wishes the mustangs could just run free.
"I come from a position I would love it if they could just be left alone. It's not feasible. It's not going to happen," she said.
After jumping through a lot of hoops, Maki adopted 126 head from the Challis herd, removing the burden from the nation's taxpayers.
Last year, the government spent almost $80 million capturing thousands of wild horses, putting them in holding facilities, and feeding them.
They're not mistreated, but it's a sad life for a wild horse.
Maki wants them to run free on 4,000 acres that would be part of the Wild Horse Preserve she is creating. Today, Maki is desperately trying to raise the funds for her nonprofit organization to buy the ground for the mustangs to run on. She will control the herd's size with PZP birth control. They'll be free, but not free to overbreed, as is happening all over the West today.
"So what we're doing is education awareness and community engagement," said Maki. "We're so excited to think about having kids come out on field trips to learn about the history of the mustangs, and the environment of this area. We want people of all ages to visit the Wild Love Preserve. This would be very unique in Challis."
Custer County, Idaho, is one of the most gorgeous areas in the west. Imagine coming to a location with ready-made education materials available, outfitters set up to take you on horseback on day trips to see the mustangs, and opportunities to learn about the native trees, grasses and geology.
"This doesn't exist anywhere else on earth,"said Maki excitedly.
Of course, there is the challenge of financing.
"We are privately raising the dollars,"said Maki. "I'm not a richy pants, so I have to raise money. "
The community is behind the idea because of the potential economic ripple effect it could have for Challis.
"It's awesome. We have to do something to help reduce the mustang herd, and help the city of Challis," said Suzi Osborn, a supporter of the project from Challis. "I'm glad she started this idea. I hope we can make it work."
When the tour buses roll into town, the money can roll into Main Street.
Even ranchers who generally have nothing nice to say about the wild mustangs that compete with their grazing cattle seem to be on board with the Wild Love Preserve model.
Stephen Bauchman of Challis Creek Cattle is quoted as saying when her program is fully funded, it will solve the wild horse issue in the
Custer Wild Horse Management area through private management and PZP birth control.
Everything is ready to go, but WLP needs money.
"We have to get the land acquisitions. So instead of sitting back and playing the waiting game, people are starting to hear about our project, so you know, get the word out. Run with scissors!"exclaimed Maki.
You can learn more about this new project at http://wildlovepreserve.com. Maki says every donation helps.