About Our Lawsuit: The Mass Removal of the Devil's Garden Mustangs

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Brieanah Schwartz, AWHC Policy Counsel

Beginning in 2018, livestock permittees in Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in the Modoc National Forest near Alturas, California, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service seeking the immediate removal of over 2,000 wild horses from their home on the range in the Modoc National Forest. This would reduce the wild horse population to between 206-402 in the Forest while authorizing over 3,700 cow/calf pairs and 2,900 sheep to graze for six months a year on the public lands there. 

AWHC teamed up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Ms. Bowers, represented by Eubanks & Associates (formally Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks), to file a motion to intervene in the case. Our goal is to defend the interests of this federally-protected wild horse herd and ensure that the government does not strike an unfair deal with the ranchers that will harm the horses.

As an alternative to the unsustainable roundup and removal of wild horses, AWHC had proposed implementing and funding a pilot fertility control project to humanely reduce population growth rates in the herd, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. However, the Forest Service rejected the offer.

The Status of the Case Today:

In August 2019, the court granted our motion to intervene and now we must mount a vigorous legal defense for the mustangs of the Modoc National Forest. You can view all the current legal documents here. We will update you as this case develops. 

Past Legal Win in the Devils Garden Territory:

In 2012, the Forest Service significantly reduced the size of the mustangs’ habitat. AWHC sued. Represented by the Animal Legal Defense Fund and our legal team at Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks, we prevailed when the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the Forest Service’s decision to cut out the middle section of the Territory


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.