Court Grants Wild Horse Advocates’ Motion to Intervene in Another Rancher Anti-Mustang Lawsuit

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RENO, NEVADA (June 12, 2015)…. Today, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada issued an order granting a motion by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) and Pershing County property owner Debra Davenport to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Pershing County and six public lands ranchers against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The lawsuit seeks to compel the BLM to immediately round up hundreds of wild horses from Congressionally designated wild horse habitat on public lands in Pershing County, Nevada, where ranchers view them as nothing more than competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized commercial livestock grazing. 

Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education has historic involvement and knowledge of wild horse and livestock issues in Pershing County and supported this intervention through a declaration outlining her interest in and knowledge of the area and its wild horses.

“Our clients intervened in this case to defend wild horses from pro-cattlemen special interests that scapegoat wild horses for range damage caused by vastly larger numbers of cattle and sheep on our public lands,” said Caitlin Zittkowski, of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, the Washington-DC based law firm that is representing AWHPC and Ms. Davenport.  “We seek to stop the BLM from cutting a backroom deal with ranchers to remove even more wild horses from our public lands in order to make room for more taxpayer-subsidized livestock grazing.”

Over the past several years, federal courts in Nevada, Wyoming and Utah have granted AWHPC the right to intervene in similar rancher-led lawsuits. This year, AWHPC has filed successful motions to dismiss two of these cases:

  • On March 12, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada, Judge Miranda Du granted a motion filed by AWHPC, author Terri Farley and photographer Mark Terrell to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) on behalf of public lands ranchers in Nevada seeking the removal of thousands of wild horses and burros from public lands in the state and the sale for slaughter of the 50,000 wild horses and burros stockpiled in holding facilities. By separate motion, Laura Leigh of Wild Horse Education was also granted the right to intervene in the case.
     
  • On April 21, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, Judge Nancy Freudenthal granted a motion by AWHPC, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom and photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl to dismiss a lawsuit filed against the BLM by the state of Wyoming on behalf of ranchers seeking the removal of wild horses from public lands in that state.

These lawsuits are part of a push by ranchers to use the court system to compel the BLM to remove more wild horses from the range. The trend began in 2010, when the Interior Department invited the Rock Springs Grazing Association in Wyoming to file a lawsuit against the BLM as a mechanism for securing funding from Congress for more wild horse roundups. The grazing association took the advice and filed a lawsuit, which the BLM settled by agreeing to wipe out wild horses on a 2-million-acre area of public and private land known as the Wyoming Checkerboard.

Under the current Administration, the BLM has rounded up so many wild horses that the number of mustangs stockpiled in government warehouses (50,000) now exceeds the number that remain free in the wild (approximately 40,000).

National opinion polls indicate that 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter, 72 percent support protecting wild horses on public lands, while just 29 percent want public lands used for livestock grazing.

In June 2013, the National Academy of Sciences endorsed a fertility control vaccine known as PZP as a viable alternative to the roundup and removal of wild horses from the range. Despite this, the BLM has failed to implement fertility control, and stubbornly pursued the unsustainable policy of rounding up and removing wild horses from the range and warehousing them in government holding facilities. In 2013, the BLM spent less than one percent of its budget on fertility control, and in 2014, expenditures on fertility control were again a small fraction of one percent of the budget.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 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. AWHPC’s founding organization, Return to Freedom (RTF), a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education and conservation, also operates sanctuaries on the Central California Coast.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Debra Davenport are being represented by the public interest Washington D.C. law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

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