For more than 100 years, a mining legacy site spanning about 3,000 acres in Frazier Park, California, has rested — waiting for new purpose. The land, purchased by Rio Tinto Borates, formerly U.S. Borax, in 1922 and inactive since 1913, gets new life this month through a bargain sale to the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center.
The sale includes a donation of nearly 2,000 acres to the wolf sanctuary that is also committed to healing combat veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Rio Tinto is focused on sustainable development and being a corporate citizen to our surrounding communities,” said Nathan Francis, land manager at Rio Tinto Borates. “We act on opportunities to benefit the community and environment where we can. With this particular sale, I believe we accomplish that.”
A sanctuary for wolves and warriors
The center, which originally encompassed 20 acres of land adjacent to the legacy site, is home to more than three-dozen wolves and high-content wolf dogs. The animals are rescued from around the United States and rehabilitated on the property.
“These are not animals that are half-wolf, half-dog,” explained Matthew Simmons, center co-founder. “What breeders have done is breed a wolf to a dog, and then wolves to wolves for five generations to breed the dog out.”
The result is an animal unfit to be domesticated or in the wild — a state similar to that of U.S. combat veterans readjusting to civilian life. That’s why Simmons and his wife Lorin Lindner, center co-founder and clinical psychologist, decided to merge the two worlds through the creation of their Warriors and Wolves program in July 2011.
Saving lives through natural partnerships
The program uses a form of eco-therapy — enlisting animals and nature in the healing process — to create a safe environment for veterans to discuss their transitions. In addition to support from licensed therapists and counselors, each veteran is paired with a wolf and another veteran who is further along in the program.
“We believe all sentient beings that have suffered trauma can communicate or partner with a different species that suffered a similar problem,” said Simmons, adding the wolves choose their partner veteran, not vice versa, and choose only once. “In combat, the veteran’s job is to be a hunter — to seize and kill to protect our way of life. The wolves perform the same job in nature.”
The program directly assists 12 veterans — and many more benefit as center volunteers. With the acquisition of the legacy site, Simmons hopes to see that number grow.
“As it stands right now, between 22 and 28 veterans commit suicide each day because of PTSD or survivors’ guilt,” he said. “PTSD is hidden deep down inside these men and women. In buying this land, we are going to be able to help more veterans recover.
“We are so grateful to Rio Tinto Borates. They are saving lives with this gift.”