In June of 2018 AWHC, The Cloud Foundation (TCF), and Western Watersheds Project (WWP) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) challenging the agency’s decision to roundup and permanently remove all wild horses from the Caliente Herd Area (HA) Complex, without considering reductions to domestic livestock in the same area.
The fate of the horses within the Complex is influenced by the 2008 Ely District Resource Management Plan (Ely RMP). The Ely RMP finalized the BLM’s decision to permanently remove all wild horses from sixteen longstanding Herd Management Areas (HMAs), including eight of the nine HMAs in the Caliente Complex—meaning that BLM set the Appropriate Management Levels (AMLs) for these areas to zero. At the same time, the agency refused to even consider any reductions to domestic livestock grazing on these same public lands. In the 2018 Final Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Caliente Complex, the BLM chose to implement the decision made in the Ely RMP.
However, under federal law, wild horse populations must be managed to maintain “a thriving natural ecological balance.” The BLM’s failure to protect the horses or give full consideration to the impacts of the action means that the public was deprived of an opportunity to meaningfully assess and respond to the rationale underlying the BLM’s decision.
Also, the BLM must consider reasonable alternatives short of the elimination of wild horses in these sixteen long standing wild horse management areas. One of the major contentions of this lawsuit is demanding that the BLM analyze and consider a reduction in livestock grazing in order to satisfy its mandate under the WHA to protect wild horses. The livestock industry does a tremendous amount of damage to land health because there are no legal requirements for the BLM to manage domestic livestock grazing on public lands in a similar manner to how wild horses are managed.
Since the complaint was filed in June, the case is now fully briefed on summary judgment, and we are awaiting either oral argument or a ruling on summary judgment. You can find all legal documents here. We will update you as this case develops.
Brieanah Schwartz is Policy Counsel for the American Wild Horse Campaign. Schwartz received her J.D. from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated with a concentration in Environmental Law. She is now barred in the District of Columbia. Brieanah is responsible for advancing AWHC’s position before Congress and this administration, for producing comments that AWHC submits, and for assisting the litigation teams on all of AWHC’s active cases. A long-time lover of wild horses, she self-published a book with her photography and research on the Cumberland Island wild horses while she attended Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. She currently resides in Washington, D.C. area with her horse, Eire, dogs, Lady, Drover, and Dandy, and kitten, Pippy.