Advocates File Suit to Stop Illegal Removal of Wild Horses in Wyoming

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Cheyenne, WY (October 6, 2017) . . . The American Wild Horse Campaign and wildlife photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl filed suit today in U.S. District Court in Wyoming to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from illegally rounding up hundreds of wild horses in a helicopter capture operation currently underway in southwestern Wyoming.

The lawsuit charges the BLM with violating three federal laws by rounding up hundreds more horses than previously disclosed by excluding foals and weanlings from its official count of horses removed from the range. It also challenges the agency’s shipment of captured mustangs to two privately-owned feedlots that are not open to the public for viewing and adoption.

According to attorney William Eubanks of Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks, “BLM’s action of permanently removing hundreds more horses than it determined to be excess animals, and which the agency never disclosed to the public nor analyzed in any fashion under relevant environmental laws, is not only unlawful but completely unconscionable in light of the Tenth Circuit’s strongly worded ruling last year telling BLM to comply with federal law when removing horses from these public lands. In some ways, BLM’s new approach is even worse for horses than the old approach that the Tenth Circuit invalidated; BLM is trying every technique possible to remove horses from the range in these HMAs except for following the laws Congress entrusted to the agency.”

It’s the third time the plaintiffs have filed suit to challenge the BLM’s illegal actions in this area known as the Wyoming Checkerboard. Last year the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals handed the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign two precedent setting legal victories related to the BLM’s actions in Wyoming. (More on the Tenth Circuit Decisions here and here.)

“The BLM has found a new way to wipe out Wyoming’s wild horse herds by pretending that young horses don’t count,” said co-plaintiff Carol Walker, a highly regarded wildlife photographer who is also Director of Field Documentation for the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, a wild horse advocacy organization based in Texas. “The BLM's stunning lack of concern for the welfare of the wild horses under its care and lack of transparency to the public of its treatment of these horses has never been more evident than during this roundup, "

Walker first learned of the BLM’s plan to remove close to 2,000 wild horses instead of the 1,560 previously disclosed as an observer onsite at the roundup, which began on September 26 and is expected to last 4-6 weeks.

“The BLM just asked Congress for permission to slaughter America’s mustangs over the opposition of 80% of Americans. Now the agency is rounding up hundreds more horses than authorized and sending them to private feedlots in Idaho and Utah where they will never be seen again,” said Suzanne Roy, Executive Director of the American Wild Horse Campaign. “By filing this lawsuit, we’re again taking a stand against this agency’s blatant lack of transparency and total disregard for the will of the American people, the welfare of our wild horses, the federal laws that protect these national icons on our public lands.”

Background

AWHC has led a years-long legal battle against over the BLM’s plan to eradicate wild horses from a two million-acre area of public and private land at the request of the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA). The RSGA owns or leases the private land blocks in the Checkerboard and views wild horses as competition for taxpayer subsidized livestock grazing on public lands. The legal battle has spanned three separate legal actions (RSGA vs. DOI, AWHC vs. DOI (2014), AWHC vs. DOI (2016). 

Less than a year ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit issued a landmark decision that stops the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from wiping out wild horses from over one million acres of public land in the Wyoming Checkerboard.

This roundup comes on the heels of other roundups, including the removal of approximately 100 horses from the range near Bible Springs, Utah last month. In all cases, the BLM is mum on the impacts of this unprecedented roundup activity on the thousands of wild horses who will be captured and removed from public lands.

These horses are in grave danger of being killed or sold for slaughter if Congress grants the BLM’s 2018 budget request to lift the current prohibition on destroying healthy wild horses and burros or selling them for slaughter. A provision that would allow this practice passed out of the House Appropriations Committee in July and is awaiting action in the Senate.

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.

Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl are renowned wild horse photographers who regularly photograph the wild horses of the Adobe Town, Great Divide Basin and Salt Wells Creek HMAs.

Meyer, Glitzenstein & Eubanks is the nation’s leading public interest law firm with offices in Washington, DC and Ft. Collins, Colorado.