In response to a lawsuit filed by a coalition of environmental and wild horse advocacy groups, the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has agreed to postpone its plans to "zero out" (eliminate all wild horses from) the Jakes Wash Herd Management Area (HMA) in Nevada and to replace 200 wild, free-roaming stallions with castrated males and return them to the range. These “scientifically unsound, controversial, untested, and radical approaches” are part of the BLM’s proposed Pancake Complex roundup, which is set to begin on January 12, 2011.
The lawsuit was filed last week in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition of conservation, wild horse protection and public interest organizations, Western Watersheds Project, a leading environmental group, and The Cloud Foundation, a wild horse advocacy organization.
“The proposed actions are precedent-setting and permanent in nature - and we firmly believe the court will find them in violation of the law," said Katherine Meyer, of Meyer Giltzenstein & Crystal, who filed the complaint on behalf of the groups. “The agency's agreement to delay these radical management actions will avoid the need to seek an emergency injunction over the holidays and will allow the court time to review the considerable merits of our lawsuit.”
At issue is the BLM’s decision to capture -- via helicopter stampede -- and remove 800-1000 wild horses from the 855,000-acre Pancake Complex every two to three years over the next six to ten years, with the first capture operation set to take place between January 12 and February 22, 2012. Specifically of concern to the plaintiffs is the agency’s plan to:
- Reduce the Pancake Complex wild horse population, currently estimated at 2,200 wild horses, to just 361 wild, free-roaming horses and replace 200 wild stallions with castrated males over the next 6-10 years.
- Eliminate all wild horses from the 154,000-acre Jakes Wash Herd Management Area (HMA), which lies within the Complex, “zeroing out” the area for wild horse use, while continuing to authorize thousands of sheep and cattle to graze the same public lands there.
Other plaintiffs include wildlife ecologist Craig Downer and photographer Arla Ruggles, who enjoy wild horse viewing in the HMAs and whose professional and aesthetic interests will be harmed if the BLM moves forward with its plan. A previous lawsuit filed in July 2011 by Meyer Glitzenstein on behalf of the plaintiffs prompted the BLM to withdraw a similar plan to release hundreds of castrated wild stallions in two HMAs in Wyoming.
The complaint alleges that the BLM’s plan for the Pancake Complex violates the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act. The complaint can be read here.
About the Plaintiffs
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 45 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.
Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation. The group works to influence and improve public lands management in 8 western states with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250,000,000 acres of western public lands.
The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.