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Capture of Horses in Monte Cristo Wild Horse Territory Dropped As Hotly-Contested BLM Pancake Complex Litigation Moves Forward
Washington, DC --The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has agreed to cancel its plans to capture and remove 198 wild horses living in the Monte Cristo Wild Horse Territory (WHT) in eastern Nevada in exchange for being dismissed as a defendant from the federal lawsuit filed by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the Western Watersheds Project and The Cloud Foundation, the groups announced today.
The agreement was signed today by the lawyers for the plaintiffs and the U.S. Department of Justice. The removal of wild horses from the Monte Cristo WHT was included as part of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Pancake Complex roundup plan, which outlines a management strategy to remove 800-1000 wild horses from the 855,000-acre public land Complex every two to three years over the next six to ten years. The litigation has also prompted the BLM to agree to postpone plans to castrate up to 200 wild free-roaming stallions and “zero out” (eliminate) all wild horses from the Jakes Wash Herd Management Area in the Pancake Complex. The merits of the case challenging these aspects of the BLM’s plan are expected to be heard later this spring.
“The Forest Service’s decision to withdraw from the BLM’s ill-conceived Pancake Complex roundup is further proof that the removal of these horses is unnecessary,” said Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. “We call upon the federal government to stop removing horses from our public lands and to instead humanely manage them on the range by reducing livestock grazing in wild horse habitat areas and by utilizing PZP fertility control when necessary to control wild horse and burro reproduction.” “The herd living in the Monte Cristo Wild Horse Territory is one of the wild herds that is inappropriately managed at a dangerously low number of animals – only 96 horses. The Forest Service’s cancellation of the roundup is especially important for this small herd’s long-term genetic health and well being,” added Ginger Kathrens, volunteer Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “In addition, by forgoing the removal of 198 wild horses, the Forest Service is saving American taxpayers millions of dollars in processing and off-the-range holding costs over the next ten years.” “For decades, the Forest Service and the BLM have mismanaged our public lands to benefit commercial interests,” commented Jon Marvel, director of the Western Watersheds Project.” There is absolutely no reason to remove federally-protected wild horses from these public land areas when thousands of privately-owned cattle and sheep continue to graze there.”
The BLM announced last week that it had completed the first phase of the six- to ten-year roundup plan, capturing 1,088 wild horses and permanently removing 890 of them from the 855,000-acre complex. Nine horses were killed during the roundup, including three horses who broke their necks while being stampeded by helicopter into the trap. Other plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit challenging aspects of the Pancake roundup include wildlife ecologist Craig Downerand 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. The plaintiffs are being represented by the WashingtonD.C.public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein &Crystal. A previous lawsuit filed in July 2011 by the firm 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.