BLM Caves to Lawsuit and Abandons Unscientific Plan to Castrate Free-Roaming Wild Horses

Environmental Groups Challenged Interior Department’s Plan to Manage Wild Horses to Extinction

Washington, DC --This morning, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced that it was withdrawing a controversial and unscientific plan to castrate free-roaming wild stallions and convert two viable wild horse populations in the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas (HMAs) in southwestern Wyoming to “minimally-reproducing” herds comprised primarily of geldings.

The announcement was made during a status conference call today on a lawsuit against the plan, which was filed on July 25, 2011 in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the public interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the Western Watersheds Project a local Wyoming couple and wildlife photographer Carol Walker.

“By galloping ahead with this destructive plan, the BLM ignored over 10,000 public comments and the opinion of experts who warned of the irreparable harm that would be inflicted on these wild horse populations, but the agency could not ignore a federal lawsuit,” said Suzanne Roy, Campaign Director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign.

Under the proposed action, the BLM would have rounded up every horse that it could find in the two HMAs – or an estimated 900 mustangs, permanently removing 723 of them and returning just 177 castrated stallions to the range.

“The BLM’s plan to sterilize wild Wyoming mustangs made clear the agency’s intent to manage wild horses to extinction, in flagrant violation of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act,” Roy continued. “It’s a shame that citizens must turn to the courts to force this agency to respect and uphold federal law.”

Plaintiff Carol Walker, author of Wild Hoofbeats; America's Vanishing Wild Horses, stated, "The plans that the BLM had in the works to geld stallions and release them back onto the range, creating sterilized, non-reproducing herds would surely spell the end of America's wild horses. The BLM's change in plans means that, for now, sterilized herds are not on the table, and that public opposition to this devastating direction for the BLM will not be denied."

Roy indicated that the plaintiffs would now consider their options for further action once the BLM issues a new decision record, a move that is expected by the end of the week. It will be the fourth action proposed by the BLM’s Rock Springs Field Office for these HMAs and the third decision record issued for this roundup plan. The agency has agreed to postpone any roundup activity until September 1 or later. The roundup had been scheduled to begin on August 16.

Last week, scientists and other experts filed declarations detailing the harmful impacts the proposed action would have on the individual horses, the wild horse herds and the environment in the White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas. The declarations were attached to the plaintiffs motion for a Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order.

For background on the legal action, including news coverage, new releases and copies of the complaint, please visit the AWHPC website here.

AWHPC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. AWHPC’s grassroots efforts are supported by a coalition of over forty historic preservation, conservation, horse advocacy and animal welfare organizations.

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) is a 501c3 group that is devoted to protection of public lands, values, watersheds and wildlife in the American West. WWP has over 1200 members, many of whom recreate on portions of these lands and enjoy their scenic beauty, wildlife and other attributes.