ENVIRONMENTAL & WILD HORSE ORGANIZATIONS FILE FEDERAL LAWSUIT ON EVE OF 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSES AND BURROS ACT
ACTION SEEKS TO BLOCK INTERIOR DEPT. WILD HORSE EXTERMINATION AND CASTRATION PLAN IN NEVADA
Washington, DC (December 14, 2011). . . On the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, a coalition of conservation and horse advocacy organizations today filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from proceeding with a massive wild horse roundup and extermination plan in central Nevada.
In U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Western Watersheds Project, a leading environmental organization, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition, and The Cloud Foundation, a wild horse advocacy organization, seek to block the BLM from implementing a precedent-setting plan to castrate hundreds of wild stallions in eastern Nevada’s Pancake Complex, as well as to extirpate all wild horses from the Jake’s Wash Herd Management Area, which lies within the Complex.
At issue is the BLM’s decision to capture — via helicopter stampede — and remove 800-1000 wild horses from the 855,000-acre Pancake Complex every two to three years over the next six to ten years, with the first capture operation set to take place between January 12 and February 22, 2012. Specifically of concern to the plaintiff’s is the agency’s plan to:
- Reduce the Pancake Complex wild horse population, currently estimated at 2,200 wild horses, to just 361 wild free-roaming horses and 200 castrated wild stallions over the next 6-10 years.
- Eliminate all wild horses from the 154,000-acre Jakes Wash Herd Management Area (HMA), which lies within the Complex, zeroing out the area for wild horse use, while continuing to authorize thousands of sheep and cattle to graze the public lands there.
The lawsuit was filed by the Washington, DC-based public interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal. Other plaintiffs include wildlife ecologist Craig Downer and photographer Arla Ruggles who enjoy wild horse viewing in the HMAs and whose professional and aesthetic interests will be harmed if the BLM moves forward with its plan. A previous lawsuit filed in July 2011 by Meyer Glitzenstein on behalf of the plaintiffs prompted the BLM to withdraw a similar plan to release hundreds of castrated wild stallions to two HMAs in Wyoming.
The complaint alleges that BLM’s “scientifically unsound, controversial, untested, and radical approaches for the management of wild horses” in the Pancake Complex violates the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.
“The BLM has violated the law by failing to analyze the relative impacts of domestic livestock and wild horses.”said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, “I hope this case ends once-and-for-all BLM’s illegal bias in favor of cattle and sheep over wild horses and all other native wildlife.”
“We file this action on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, because the Interior Department continues to subvert federal law by managing America’s wild horses and burros to extinction,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. “The proposed action for the Pancake Complex is yet another example of the way in which the Interior Department has failed to protect the mustangs, as Congress intended and the American public demands.”
“The BLM’s plan for the wild horses of the Pancake Complex is a miscarriage of justice for these federally-protected animals,” said Ginger Kathrens, volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “After four decades of mismanagement, it’s time to draw a line in the sand. The agency’s policy of destroying America’s wild horse herds for the benefit of the livestock industry must come to an end.”
On December 15, 1971, then President Richard Nixon signed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act into law, stating:
“Wild horses and burros merit man’s protection historically for they are a living link with the days of the conquistadors, through the heroic times of the western Indians and pioneers, to our own day when the tonic of wilderness seems all too scarce. More than that, they merit it as a matter of ecological right – as anyone knows who has ever stood awed at the indomitable spirit and sheer energy of a mustang running free.”
The Act, which protects America’s wild horses and burros as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” was passed unanimously by Congress and with overwhelming public support. Despite the Act, the BLM continues to remove wild horses by the tens of thousands from Western public lands and seeks to reduce the national wild horse population to the level that existed in 1971 when Congress determined that the mustangs were “fast-disappearing” and needed protection.
ABOUT THE PLAINTIFFS
Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation. The group works to influence and improve public lands management in 8 western states with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250,000,000 acres of western public lands.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 45 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.
The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.
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- Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project, 208-788-2290
- Ginger Kathrens, The Cloud Foundation, 719-633-3842