A lawsuit filed late monday in U.S. District Court by plaintiffs Western Watersheds and American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) et al aims to stop a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse roundup in Wyoming.
Initial filings by Katherine Meyer and Jessica Almy of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, a Washington D.C. law firm, claim the BLM decision to create a “minimally reproducing” herd in the White Mountain and Little Colorado herd management areas ( HMA’s) is in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act, and the Administrative Procedure act.
An original BLM decision to spay wild mares in the field before returning them to the wild along with gelded stallions was revised earlier this month to forego spaying of the mares but return only the gelded males. The proposed action would permanently remove 696 wild horses and leave only 66 capable of reproducing within 700,000 acres of public land. Court documents state, “This population level is below the recommended minimum of 100 reproductively active adult horses necessary to maintain genetic diversity.”
Suzanne Roy, campaign director for AWHPC , stated, “ This Wyoming action makes clear the BLM’s design to manage America’s wild horses to extinction – by turning healthy wild free-roaming herds into dysfunctional, non-viable populations that will die out over time… Since Congress unanimously passed the Act 40 years ago, the BLM has systematically take away more than one-third of federally-designated habitat for wild horses and burros, and reduced population numbers to below 1970’s levels when Congress determined that the mustangs were ‘fast disappearing’ from the West and needed federal protection.” ( article continues below)
The complaint for injunctive and declaratory relief argues on behalf of co-plaintiff Jonathan Ratner, a biologist and Western Watershed’s Wyoming director that BLM’s actions are “… manipulating and degrading wild horses, which are part of the natural environment, for the principal benefit of privately-owned domestic livestock that dominate the landscape and consume the vast majority of the forage on public lands.” Additional co-plaintiffs, Donna and Greg Dugworth, residents of Green River, Wyoming, and Carol Walker, well known wild horse photographer, cite the loss of their ability to photograph and enjoy these horses and their natural wild behaviors.
Western Watersheds Project, well known for their success in environmental litigation, is quoted on the AWHPC site as stating, “ Public lands ranching is the most widespread commercial use of public lands in the United States. Ranching is one of the primary causes of native species endangerment in the American West; it is also the most significant cause of non-point source water pollution and desertification.”
BLM has a “no comment” policy on pending litigation.