We share people’s anger and frustration about the continued roundup of wild horses by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and we want you to know what we are doing about it, with your continued support and participation.
1. Spreading awareness
USFS and BLM roundups occur out of the public eye in remote areas of the West. We send observers to the roundups so the public can see what is going on. We observe and document the roundups to hold the agencies accountable for the often inhumane actions and to educate the public about the atrocities that are occurring on our public lands. In fact, it is our right as citizens to observe government activities.
Public education is the foundation that we must build on to make lasting change. Wild horses have powerful enemies -- wealthy lobbying entities like the Cattlemen’s Association and the Farm Bureau. We have the power of the people on our side, but to harness it, we must first let people know what is happening. Even today, most Americans don’t know about the plight of wild horses and burros. When they learn about it, they are outraged. It’s our job to build public awareness and the grassroots army necessary to rise up and force change. Observing, documenting and disseminating video and photos of the roundups is essential to this task.
2. Filing Lawsuits
On our litigation page, you will see that we are in court consistently on the wild horse issue, against both the BLM and the Forest Service. In fact, we are involved in two active cases regarding the Devil’s Garden horses.
In the first case, we sued to stop the USFS from attempting to sell wild horses it removed from the territory without limitations on slaughter. In the second case, we intervened in a case brought by livestock ranchers seeking to compel the USFS to remove over 2,000 wild horses from the territory. Our interest in this second case is to represent the wild horses and ensure that the USFS is committed to its responsibility to the horses instead of bowing to pressure from the ranchers.
We are currently participating in court-ordered mediation and will update you when there is a development in either or both of these cases.
When we file a case, we are looking to make real, lasting change for our wild horses. While we would like to be able to go to court to stop every issue as it arises, litigation is expensive and far from certain. Many factors need to be considered with each new case we bring, such as what court are we in, what state are we in, what circuit are we in, which judge we are likely to get assigned, and whether the case law in that jurisdiction is helpful or harmful to the wild horse issue.
If we rush into court without a strong legal foundation, we won't just lose, we'll also create bad case law that negatively affects future cases that we and others will file. Before we file a lawsuit, we carefully evaluate what the strongest legal case would look like. When we file litigation, we do so strategically and use our resources wisely by choosing cases that will chip away at the government's most egregious practices.
In the case of the Devil’s Garden roundups, we are documenting and looking for opportunities to challenge USFS's roundup practices more broadly in the near future. As we have seen in past cases brought by other groups over BLM handling practices at roundups, a legal challenge against specific instances of inhumane treatment at a roundup are unlikely to provide us with our desired outcome -- a permanent stop to the roundup. While some groups were able to get temporary relief in a court far outside of where the Devil’s Garden roundups would be challenged, even that court quickly refused to extend relief beyond a temporary solution.
AWHC has a small but mighty team of staff and experts who work tirelessly on the Hill, in the courtroom, on the range, and through the administrative process to help save wild horses. We’ve also filed formal complaints with the BLM in the states where the roundups are happening, and we are bringing these cruel instances to the attention of Congressional oversight panels.
We aim to keep our supporters updated with all the developments of our lawsuits.