HOT SPRINGS, S.D. -- The company that makes the Mustang sports car is investing in the wild horse of the same name.
With the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary as a backdrop, officials from Ford Motor Co. said the company would provide money to help save 2,000 wild mustangs that face an uncertain future and help establish a fund to take public donations to maintain the horses.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Take Pride in America group also are participating in setting up the fund.
Among those on hand for Thursday's press conference at the sanctuary's headquarters on the edge of the Black Hills were actress and animal activist Stefanie Powers, credited with bringing the mustang issue to Ford; BLM director Kathleen Clark; Dayton Hyde, president of the Institute of Range and the American Mustang and the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary; and Ziad Ojakli, group vice president of corporate affairs for Ford.
"The mustang is a symbol that drove a lot of our success," Ojakli said, referring to the sporty Ford Mustang introduced 40 years ago.
He said Ford's commitment to save mustangs is "a small token that we can do to pay back" for the company's success.
He didn't provide a dollar figure for helping save 2,000 mustangs but he said it would easily reach six figures.
Powers said Thursday's announcement showed "there are no good guys and bad guys. We're all in collaboration in the rescuing of these horses that were going to be slaughtered," she said.
A new federal law passed late last year allowed the slaughter of mustangs for the first time since 1971.
Ford officials said the 2,000 wild horses could go to a variety of locations, including American Indian reservations.
Clark said the public-private partnership on behalf of the mustangs "is the kind of effort that will really make a difference."
The BLM oversees some 32,000 mustangs on federal lands in the West and another 22,000 currently in holding facilities.
The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, established by Hyde in 1988, has 400 mustangs on 11,000 acres in southwest South Dakota.
The BLM's mustang program drew controversy earlier this year when it was discovered that some horses the agency sold to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota had subsequently been acquired by a broker and shipped to an Illinois plant for slaughter.
Alerted by Powers, Ford purchased the remaining 52 "Rosebud" horses. Thirty-two of them have been moved to the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. The remaining 20 will also go to the sanctuary after being released from quarantine in Illinois.
The nonprofit sanctuary is not receiving any money from Ford to maintain the Rosebud horses, but it can apply to the new public fund, sanctuary spokeswoman Karla LaRive said.