Progressive Wyoming Ranchers: Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
Jana Wilson in Centennial, Wyoming

“I never tire of the horses, and they never disappoint a visitor,” Jana Wilson said.

She was speaking about the stallions in her care.

Jana and her husband, Rich, Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyomingoperate the Deerwood Ranch
Wild Horse EcoSanctuary
 on the extended family’s 4,700-acre
property in Centennial, Wyoming.

It’s where 350 horses captured wild in Wyoming roam free.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming“Once people are here and we get them out with the horses, you can feel this peace come over them.

“You can sense a common bond,” Jana said.

Through tears, a recent guest from Georgia said visiting the horses was the highlight of her life.

“Therapists bring clients here,” Jana said. “They go to the horses then sometimes stay for a picnic lunch.”

“You can just feel how positive it is.

“Some kind of tranquility comes over them,” she said. “Horses have a way of bringing out emotions in people.”

One might say, healing of all sorts takes place here.

And it all came about from a small ad in a local paper.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
In Centennial, Wyoming, the nation’s first Wild Horse EcoSanctuary

BLM Horse EcoSanctuaries

In 2010 Jana’s father read that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was seeking private land for excess horses.

Three things were needed.

– Rocks to wear the horses’ hooves down
– Running water through all the pastures the horses would be in
– And plenty of natural shelter in the form of willows and trees so the horses could find refuge in the tough Wyoming winters

Jana, a self-proclaimed progressive rancher, said a two-year application process resulted in Deerwood Ranch becoming the first of three BLM-sponsored EcoSanctuaries in the country.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
photo by Byron Crane

The wild, albeit gelded, stallions, reside with four generations of people who have called this land home since early 1980s.

The “eco” part of EcoSanctuary stands for economy and ecology.

That’s because part of the BLM’s intention is to boost local tourism and offer education about wild horses.

“A lot of people come to Wyoming looking for wild horses living in their natural habitat, but they can’t find them,” Jana said.

Partnering With the BLM

So, lucky for the public, the pact between the Wilsons and the BLM states that the EcoSanctuary be open to visitors from May to September.

Another part of the agreement says that horses will live as close to their natural environments as possible.

That means feed is only provided in winter, and no vet care can be given.

The exception is euthanasia for a severely-injured horse or one that is suffering and near death.

Yet as a result of the agreement, the Wilsons get to witness instinctual healing.

On one occasion they observed a stallion with a cut leg spend big portions of every day standing in brook water until the injury had healed.

He was accompanied by a companion, something Jana said each horse naturally has.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, WyomingVisiting the EcoSanctuary

As to visiting Deerwood, all I can say is, “Do it.”

And do it more than once.

By way of truck or ATV (all-terrain vehicle) you’ll be transported to another world.

Once in the vicinity of the horses, there’s plenty of unrushed time to watch them graze, run, amble and rest on the magnificent land that extends halfway up a mountain.

But count on each tour being different.

Sometimes curious horses wander toward you, even nuzzling.

And other times the connection is made without touch.

It’s entirely up to them.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
Friend, Debbie, approached by this horse who shares her coloring.

Wild Horse Protection

While wild horses have been protected in the U.S. since 1971, laws may be changing.

With few predators, their numbers are growing rapidly.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
College roommates plus a special friend at Deerwood.

The estimated number of mustangs roaming the west exceeds 86,000.

Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary in Centennial, Wyoming
Byron Crane, my son, befriended by a wild horse.

Each year thousands are rounded up and kept in holding pens while others are put up for adoption.

Undeniable friction exists between the ranchers who use public lands for herd grazing and wild horses doing the same.

Yet 350 fortunate mustangs found their way to Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary.

And nearly 1,500 people will trek to Centennial, Wyoming to visit them this year.

I wonder if that number includes the five to six times my family and friends and I will be there?

Take Action!

•  Visit Deerwood Ranch Wild Horse EcoSanctuary.

•  Read the full and edited text of the Wild Free-Romaing Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

•  Read “Wild Horses and the Inmates who ‘Gentle’ Them,” by Steven KurutzNew York Times Fashion and Style, 10/15/2017.

• Watch the full documentary, “Wild Horse Wild Ride,” on youtube.

•  Read “They’ll Shoot Horses, Won’t They?” New York Times Op-Ed by Ellie Phipps Price, 7/21/2017.

•  Read  “The Quiet War Against Wyoming’s Wild Horses,” by Andrew Cohen, The Atlantic, 8/11/2011.

•  Stay at the Wilson’s 2-bedroom, river-side cottage on the grounds of Deerwood Ranch.

•  Read “Wild Horses, Wilder Controversy,” by Ben Masters, National Geographic, 2/6/2017.

•  Read “Wild Horses: The Consequence of Doing Nothing,” by Ben Masters, National Geographic, 2/7/2017.

•  Visit the two other BLM EcoSanctuaries:
Mowdy Ranch Mustangs in Coalgate, Oklahoma
Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lander, Wyoming

•  Read about Home on the Range Animal Sanctuary.

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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  — C. West

Sweet Melissa Vegetarian Café in Laramie: Few Plastic Straws and No Animals Sacrificed

Sweet Melissa vegetarian cafeIn 1999 Melissa Murphy didn’t know if a Wyoming vegetarian restaurant would last.

Nineteen years later on a family visit to Laramie, the first, second and even third food recommendations we solicited unanimously pointed to Sweet Melissa.

“And I’m not even a vegetarian! . . .” punctuated each endorsement.

Researchers at Carnegie Melon University found that eliminating meat one day a week has the same effect on greenhouse gas emissions as cutting 1,000 miles of driving a year.5

Vegetarian and no straws – environmental act

“A vegetarian restaurant is an environmental act,” Melissa said.

And in a similar way, so are her recent efforts to reduce plastic straws and water use.

One straw at a time, Melissa is cutting back on the 500 million plastic straws used and discarded each day in the United States.

Yet weaning café customers and staff off plastic straws has been a three-year process, she noted.*

Still, one straw at a time, Melissa is cutting back on the 500 million plastic straws used and discarded each day in the United States. 6

Other environmental acts at Sweet Melissa include a commitment to recycling that began in 1999.

Additionally, they participate in composting through the Acres Student Farm7 at the University of Wyoming.

And take-out cups and food containers are now corn-based versus petroleum.

When asked to define social justice, Melissa quoted a Unitarian Universalist principle: “The inherent worth and dignity of every person.”

“. . . and animals,” she added.

Melissa Murphy owner of vegetarian restaurant
Sweet Melissa Vegetarian Cafe owner, Melissa Murphy.

 

no straw, thanks!

For more information on plastic straws
please see the blog resource page.

Read about food rescue in Jackson.

*for now plastic straws are used on the Tavern side.


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Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com


“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.1  Cornell West