SANTA FE, N.M. — Ownerless horses that amble freely over the hills of Placitas have ignited a controversy within the community that has long stumped efforts to find a solution.
But suggestions in a report recently made available by New Mexico First show some possible ways the community could work with local, state and federal representatives to craft practicable solutions.
The report is based on dozens of interviews with village residents, representatives from county, state and federal entities and local pueblo leaders who served on a task force dedicated to the horse issue.
Their suggestions include:
- Get an accurate count of the horses;
- Clarify government authority and regulations pertaining to the animals;
- Encourage private property owners to fence their land;
- Approve contraception use for mares; and
- Relocate some of the horses, promote adoption and establish a horse sanctuary.
The 46-page report posted on the New Mexico First website – nmfirst.org – last week outlines a brief history of Placitas and the horses and presents the viewpoints gleaned from the interviews. It also shows the suggestions in table form ranked as short-term, mid-term or long-term possibilities with comments outlining the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
Placitas residents will have a chance to comment and provide their own input at a public meeting organized by New Mexico First from 9 a.m. to noon today at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in Placitas.
Community residents have been sharply divided between those who support the horses’ right to roam free and others who are alarmed by their growing numbers and say they damage property and pose a safety risk to local traffic.
Government agencies such as the federal Bureau of Land Management have taken a hands-off approach because no one claims ownership of the horses. Last fall, the county hired New Mexico First, an organization that specializes in consensus building, to work with a task force to help find a workable solution.
The 20-member task force included 12 members of the Placitas community and representatives from Albuquerque Open Space, the Attorney General’s Office, state Livestock Board, Sandoval County Sheriff’s Office, the U.S. Forest Service, Santa Ana and San Felipe pueblos and county Commissioner Orlando Lucero.
Gary Miles of Placitas Animal Rescue resigned after the initial meeting in November. Patience O’Dowd of the horse advocacy organization Wild Horse Observers Association resigned a day before the report was posted on the New Mexico First website.
“We were really saddened by that. Patience was a really valuable contributor,” said New Mexico First President Heather Balas.
In her resignation email to County Manager Phil Rios, O’Dowd criticized the county for spending $23,000 to hire New Mexico First. She took issue with the way the organization conducted the information gathering process for, among other things, not including surveys that showed community support for the horses.