Our awesome legal team’s string of victories continued this week, with a decision from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO), the Nevada Farm Bureau and others against the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The lawsuit sought to force the government to round up and remove thousands of wild horses and burros from public lands in Nevada and to sell captured wild horses and burros “without limitation,” meaning they could be purchased for slaughter.
AWHC, Nevada-based author Terri Farley and Nevada wild horse photographer Mark Terrell were intervenors in this case, which means we were fighting alongside the government to get the case dismissed.
In dismissing the case, the Ninth Circuit ruled that NACO "seeks judicial oversight and direction of virtually the entire federal wild horse and burro management program in Nevada,” which is not the judiciary’s role.
The decision is the second major blow to rancher-led legal actions against wild horses and burros.
On October 11, 2016, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver dismissed a similar lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming on behalf of ranchers seeking large-scale wild horse removals from seven Herd Management Areas. AWHC, our coalition partners The Cloud Foundation and Return to Freedom, and photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl were intervenors in this case.
Together, the two appellate court decisions will put a stop to rancher-led legal actions asserting that the BLM is legally mandated to remove wild horses from the range as soon as their populations exceed the agency’s arbitrarily imposed population limits, known as “Appropriate” Management Levels (AMLs).
Unfortunately, opponents of wild horses are shifting their legal strategies in response to these court decisions, and so we continue our battle to defend wild horses from their legal attacks in the following federal courts:
· In Utah, AWHC and our coalition partners have been granted the right to intervene in a rancher lawsuit seeking to force the removal of hundreds of horses from six Herd Management Areas in the state. Oral arguments in this case will be held in Salt Lake City on April 11.
· Also in Utah, we just filed to intervene in a lawsuit filed by Beaver County Utah seeking to block BLM from implementing a management plan in the Sulphur HMA that would allow the agency to reach AML over ten years through a combination of removals and fertility control implementation. The county, acting on behalf of ranchers, seeks the immediate removal of hundreds of horses to reach the low AML for this HMA, which is only 165 horses roaming on over 500 square miles of public land.
· In Idaho, we and our coalition partners have filed suit against the BLM over its plans to destroy the wild free-roaming horse population in the Saylor Creek HMA by surgically sterilizing every mare and stallion in the herd.
· In California, we are awaiting a U.S. Court of Appeals DC Circuit ruling on our lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service over its decision to reduce the size of the Devils Garden Wild Horse Territory by cleaving out its middle section and creating two non-intermingling wild horse populations neither of which will be large enough to be genetically viable if they are segregated from each other. After a favorable hearing at the appeals court, we are hopeful for a positive decision.
We are fighting for wild horses and burros on all fronts and need your help to continue waging these legal battles. The legal fees required to win these cases are significant, but funding these critical court battles is one of the best investments you can make in the fight to save wild horses and burros from mass roundup and slaughter. Our top-notch legal team has amassed a string of legal victories on behalf of our wild horses and burros, so please consider supporting our litigation program to keep these wins coming for mustangs and burros!