Wild horse advocates have gone to court to seek the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by Nevada livestock interests seeking to increase the number of roundups and remove thousands more mustangs.
The motion to dismiss the case was filed last week by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), author Terri Farley, and wild horse photographer Mark Terrell.
Their court action is a challenge to the lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in the US District Court of Nevada.
On April 3, the court granted the AWHPC, Farley, and Terrell permission to intervene in the case. The three argue the rural groups’ lawsuit should be tossed out based on the plaintiffs’ lack of standing and legal basis for the action.
The NACO lawsuit, filed in December, is on behalf of Nevada ranchers, who lease grazing for cattle and sheep on American public lands. The lawsuit argues that more more roundups are necessary to reduce herd numbers competing with livestock for water and forage.
It seeks to compel the BLM to immediately round up and remove more than 6000 wild horses from Nevada public lands, conduct wild horse and burro roundups every two months in the state, and to “auction, sell or otherwise dispose of” the 50,000 wild horses and burros held in government warehousing facilities.
AWHPC director Suzanne Roy said: “The NACO lawsuit lacks merit and is the latest attempt by ranchers to create a legal façade to give the BLM an excuse to cave in to their interests and remove more mustangs.
“We are hopeful that the court will dismiss this case, which is yet another meritless legal assault on federally protected wild horses and burros by ranchers who view these national icons as competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized grazing on our public lands.”
The AWHPC argues the NACO lawsuit is part of a broader push to compel the BLM to remove an increasing number of wild horses from public lands and sell captured wild horses for slaughter.
In addition to Nevada ranchers, ranchers in Utah and Wyoming have also sued the BLM. The AWHPC argues the agency “has a history of quickly capitulating to their demands, regardless of the legal merits of their cases”.
The AWHPC says national opinion polls indicate 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.
Under the current Administration, the BLM has rounded up so many wild horses that the number of mustangs in government warehouses – 50,000 – exceeds the number free in the wild, which is estimated to be as few as 33,000.
Last year, the National Academy of Sciences endorsed the use of the PZP fertility control vaccine as a viable alternative to the roundup and removal of wild horses.
The AWHPC said the BLM had failed to implement fertility control and stubbornly pursued roundups and stockpiling, which it labelled an unsustainable policy.