Wild Horses Rounded Up in American West

Following her was her entourage: two assistants, her twin sister, two horse consultants, her photographer and three helicopter pilots. Pickens arrived to watch the horse-gathering process and to take a look at the land where she hopes one day to build a horse refuge.

"They're in holding areas right now," she said of the horses. "So let's take them out and put them on the range where they can roam freely as natural to them, and then allow the American public to come and visit them just as they would in any national park."

Pickens is upset about the horse roundups and wishes they would stop, but she's putting her energy and money into what happens to the horses after they get gathered.

"I made a proposal to the Bureau of Land Management, and I said, 'Let me create an eco-sanctuary. I will purchase the land,'" said Pickens. "Initially, they loved it. Then they changed their mind, and there was a change in the government. But you know, really Republican or Democrat, they've never been good on horse issues. It's a cattleman's issue, and it's a very difficult issue to fight."

The problem is, she needs the Department of Interior to agree to her plan in order to buy the property and place the horses in Nevada, but the department so far has refused.

"I think her proposal is one that needs to be looked at in conjunction with other proposals," Salazar said. "We are proposing the creation of three additional wild horse preserves in places that have better forage [than Nevada] to be able to deal with what is essentially an 11,000-horse problem."

The problem is where to house these horses after they have been gathered. Tough economic times mean people are not adopting horses as often, so most of the horses end up in long-term horse-holding shelters funded by taxpayers' money. The government calls the holding areas "preserves," but the activists call them "concentration camps."

The emotions run high when it comes to wild horses.

'Let Them Go': Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow Against Roundups

Prominent figures like the singers Willie Nelson and Sheryl Crow have spoken out against the roundups, even accusing the government of leading the wild horses to eventual slaughter.

"I'm speaking for the horse here," Nelson said. "I think he's getting the worst deal here. There's a lot of land out there. The horses are penned up. Let them go until we decide what to do with them. In the meantime, let's take care of them. Don't slaughter them."

The slaughter of horses is illegal in the United States, but the activists claim the horses get shipped to Mexico or Canada, where it is allowed.

The day of the roundup featured a clear, blue sky. The BLM led a caravan of 12 cars carrying media representatives and horse advocates towards Solider Meadows field where cowboys had worked all morning to set up traps and locate the horses.

The drive took two hours from Gerlach on a muddy road, which caused two flat tires on the journey. When the caravan of media and BLM representatives arrived, there was an announcement that a set of helicopters operated by the contractor was on a recon mission trying to spot some mustangs in the high hills surrounding the trap site.

In Nevada, more than 600 horses have been rounded up since Dec. 29. A handful of them were standing around inside of a holding pen near the trap site. Mares, colts and male horses were divided into separate pens.

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