Wild Horse Advocates Granted Intervenor Status in WY Lawsuit

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Cross-posted from AWHPC:
For immediate release

Federal Court grants wild horse groups' request to intervene aiming to destroy nearly half of Wyoming's wild horse herds

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (November 2, 2011) - Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, granted intervener status to the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a national coalition, and two of its coalition partners, the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB) and The Cloud Foundation, in the case of the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) vs. the U.S. Department of the Interior. The lawsuit seeks removal of all wild horses on public and private lands in the southern Wyoming. The motion was filed by the highly regarded, public interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal.

At stake is the future of nearly half of Wyoming's remaining wild horses living on a two-million-acre swath of private and public land known as the "Wyoming checkerboard". The area includes four wild horse Herd Management Areas – Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin, White Mountain and Little Colorado – administered by the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

In granting the organizations' request to intervene, the court stated, "Certainly the relief requested by Plaintiff would impact the number of wild horses roaming the Wyoming Checkerboard on both private and public lands. Further, it appears that agreements negotiated between RSGA and wild horse advocacy groups played a significant role in the earlier litigation and BLM's stated management objectives regarding wild horses in the Wyoming Checkerboard areas...." (See court order here.)

"We are pleased that this court decision will allow us to be a voice for the future of Wyoming's mustangs," said Karen Sussman, president of the ISPMB, the oldest and largest wild horse advocacy group in the nation. "As a party to the original agreement establishing population levels in this area, we will vigorously defend the Wyoming's wild horses and work toward an agreement that keeps them free where they belong on our public lands."

"We are intervening to ensure that the Department of Justice, representing the Interior Department and BLM, will fight just as hard to protect wild horses in this case as they continue to fight against legal challenges from advocates seeking to protect wild horses from BLM roundups," states Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of the Cloud Foundation. "It comes as no surprise that the largest 'welfare ranching' organization in the nation threatens the future of thousands of federally protected mustangs in southern Wyoming."

"Since we cannot count on the federal government to stand up for Wyoming's wild horses, we must intervene in this case to ensure that the federal law protecting mustangs is upheld," said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC Campaign Director. Roy noted that the RSGA complaint indicates that the Department of Interior invited the lawsuit as a mechanism for getting Congress to appropriate more funds for wild horse roundups.

The RSGA lawsuit was filed shortly after the AWHPC, joined by the Western Watersheds Project, filed a lawsuit against the BLM over the plan to castrate free-roaming stallions living in the White Mountain and Little Colorado HMAs. The BLM withdrew the plan in the face of the AWHPC legal action, which was also brought by Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal.

The RSGA controls about 2 million acres of rangeland in southern Wyoming, in an area 40 miles wide by 70 miles long that runs along the historic transcontinental railway corridor. RSGA members graze approximately 50,000 to 70,000 sheep and about 5,000 cattle on deeded private lands and leased public lands. By contrast, just 1,100- 1,600 wild horses are thought to roam the area.

Thanks to taxpayer subsidies, RSGA members graze livestock on public lands for approximately one-twelfth (1/12) of the going market rate. The RSGA complaint, filed on July 27, 2011, seeks a court order that will (a) result in removing all wild horses from private lands in the Wyoming Checkerboard area, and (b) declare that the BLM "must remove all of the wild horses that have strayed onto the RSGA lands and the adjacent public lands within the Wyoming Checkerboard."

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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.

International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, founded over 50 years ago, was instrumental in securing the enactment of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the landmark federal legislation that established protections for wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands in the West.

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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