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Wild horse advocates challenge lawsuit targeting Nevada’s wild horses

Wild horses in Nevada.

Wild horses in Nevada. © BLM

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.

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Comments (5)

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  1. Finola says:

    29% of those surveyed want more cattle on public lands ? Where was that portion of the survey conducted, in the Cattlemens Association bar ?

  2. Tom Durfee says:

    Remove the welfare ranchers from Americas public land. One government by the people for the people, now they should act on the will of the people.

  3. dk says:

    Wow! At the BLM WH&B Advisory Board meeting in April, 2014, they stated there were 22,000 Federally-protected WH&B left on the range and free. At 22,000, this would mean we have about one percent of the original over 2 million, and at 33,000 we would have about 1.5% of the original number of WH&B. It’s time to stop the Welfare Rancher program. Only 2% of the beef comes from the Welfare Ranchers. They are only paying $1.35 per AUM/head per month for this privilege, and instead of being happy they sue. If they have money to sue, then they can pay more money in grazing fees or buy their own land.

  4. susan humphrey says:

    The removal of wild horses and burros from public rangelands is carried out to ensure rangeland health, in accordance with land-use plans that are developed in an open, public process. These land-use plans are the means by which the BLM carries out its core mission, which is to manage the land for multiple uses while protecting the land’s resources. Livestock grazing on BLM-managed land has declined by 35 percent since 1971 (when Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act) — from 12.1 million Animal Unit Months (AUMs or forage units) to 7.9 million AUMs in 2013.
    The current on-the-range population of wild horses and burros (approximately 40,600) is greater than the number found roaming in 1971 (about 25,300). The BLM is seeking to achieve the appropriate management level of 26,677 wild horses and burros on Western public rangelands, or about 14,000 fewer than the current West-wide population.
    Currently, most BLM field offices in the West use a “direct count” method that involves the counting of each wild horse and burro actually seen during aerial surveys. This method, the Government Accountability Office (in October 2008) and a National Academy of Sciences research committtee (in June 2013) concluded, results in an undercounting of herd populations.

  5. Jessica jermanus says:

    People should just leave the beautiful creatures alone

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