Wild horse advocates push to enter Wyoming lawsuit


By Ben Neary, Associated Press

CHEYENNE, Wyoming — Wild horse advocacy groups across the country are pushing to intervene in a federal lawsuit the state of Wyoming filed recently against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management accusing the federal agency of not doing enough to reduce wild horse populations.

Two coalitions of horse advocate groups filed papers in federal court in Wyoming last week seeking to enter the state’s lawsuit. One group includes the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, headquartered in North Carolina, and the other includes Friends of Animals, headquartered in Connecticut.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead claimed in the state’s lawsuit that the BLM isn’t doing enough to control horse numbers. He maintains too many wild horses can harm habitat used by wildlife.

“It is my belief, and the belief of other western governors, that the BLM does not have the resources to manage wild horses effectively,” Mead said after filing the lawsuit. “By filing suit, it sends a message that wild horse management is a priority and the BLM must be provided the funding necessary to manage them.”

By pushing to intervene in the case, the horse advocate groups are widening their attack on horse-management practices in Wyoming.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and some other groups are pushing a separate federal lawsuit of their own claiming that the BLM violated federal law by rounding up over 1,200 from three areas in Wyoming this summer. The groups filed their main brief in their federal lawsuit against the BLM last week.

The agency announced in October that it had rounded up 1,263 wild horses in the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas. The areas are within the Checkerboard Region of southwestern Wyoming, an area where private and federal lands are laid out in alternating sections

The Rock Springs Grazing Association has pressed for years to reduce grazing on private lands by wild horses. The association has intervened in the groups’ lawsuit challenging this summer’s roundup.

The BLM had estimated there were 3,771 wild horses in Wyoming before the contested roundup. In its lawsuit, Wyoming claims the horse population after the roundup still exceeded appropriate levels in seven herd management areas by about 475 total horses.

Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said Saturday that the future of Wyoming’s wild horses is at stake in both cases.

“It’s a larger issue of how our public lands are managed, and for whom they are managed,” Roy said. “The state is now taking on the Wyoming ranchers’ fight against wild horses, we feel strongly we need to stand up for Wyoming’s mustangs. And we’re prepared to vigorously defend them in court.”

Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs, issued a statement Saturday saying her group feels compelled to intervene in Wyoming’s lawsuit because it believes the BLM isn’t protecting America’s wild horses and burros as it should.

“BLM’s new wipe-out plan is to complain their hands are tied and then invite states and other land-grabbers to sue them to roundup wild horses — under false claims of overpopulation,” Novak said. “This subterfuge must be stopped.”

Jenni Barnes, staff attorney for Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program stated that her group is appalled Wyoming is pushing to remove even more wild horses from our public lands.

“We all have a right to be involved in decisions about our public lands,” Barnes said. “Yet it appears that Wyoming is trying to bypass this process and make a side deal with BLM to eradicate wild horses.”

Cross-posted for educational purposes 

7 legal points for wild horses and burros

Truck in the pens (© Anne Novak, All rights reserved)

Truck in the pens (© Anne Novak, All rights reserved)

by Kathleen Hayden

1. Wild horses and burros are no less “wild” animals than are the grizzly bears that roam our national parks and forests (Mountain States v. Hodel) neither the states of the federal government have the right to harm Our Heritage Wildlife as found by the 1995 Supreme court Ruling Babbit v.Sweet Home.

2. The Babbit v Sweet Home case found that the term “take” means to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. 16 U.S.C. § 1532(19)

3. By a 6-3 vote, the Court upheld the statutory authority of the Secretary of the Interior to include “habitat modification and degradation” as conduct which constitutes “harm” under the ESA.
In addition to the statutory provisions described above,

4. Section 5 of the ESA authorizes the Secretary to purchase the lands on which the survival of the species depends. Accordingly, Sweet Home maintained that this Section 5 authority was “the Secretary’s only means of forestalling that grave result [i.e. possible extinction)

5. As a result, based upon “the text, structure, and legislative history of the ESA the Supreme Court concluded that “the Secretary reasonably construed the intent of Congress when he defined ‘harm’ to include ‘significant habitat modification or degradation that actually kills or injures wildlife species.

6. Pursuant to BLM’s 2001 Special Status Species Policy requirement that “sensitive” species be afforded, at a minimum, the same protections as candidate species for listing under the ESA. It called on BLM managers to “obtain and use the best available information deemed necessary to evaluate the status of special status species in areas affected by land use plans . . . .

7. See Policy at § 6840.22A. Under the Policy, those land use plans “shall be sufficiently detailed to identify and resolve significant land use conflicts with special status species without deferring conflict resolution to implementation-level planning.” Id. (Case 4:08-cv-00516-BLW Document 131 Filed 09/28/11 Page 8 of 37 (Sagegrouse decision)

Two different Fort McDermitt lawsuits for two different issues


The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Laura Leigh et al sued over the Fort McDermitt roundup. Protect Mustangs and Citizens Against Equine Slaughter sued over the agreement that called for years of similar roundups. Though the USFS didn’t participate in the Fort McDermitt roundup, the USFS-McDermitt agreement was left on the table. Protect Mustangs and Citizens Against Equine Slaughter got the illegal agreement scrubbed out on Sept. 3, 2013, after the roundup cases had been lost/dismissed in mid-August.

Links of interest™:

September 30,2013 Horsetalk, New Zealand Roundup agreement canned following legal challenge http://horsetalk.co.nz/2013/09/30/roundup-agreement-canned-following-legal-challenge/#axzz2gPxqlhX1

September 28, 2013 CBS San Francisco Wild Horse Advocates’ Legal Victory Halts Roundups in NorCal Forest http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2013/09/28/wild-horse-advocates-legal-victory-halts-roundups-in-norcal-forest/#.UkhzyrcAdyU.twitter

Press Release: Legal win creates public transparency and halts 2-year roundup contract (September 26, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5185

PM Protect Mustangs & Citizens Against Equine Slaughter Win Transparency for Public for Forest Service Roundups with Tribes (September 17, 2013)

Termination of roundup agreement (September 3, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/PM-Protect-Mustangs-CAES-McDermitt-Participating-Agreement-Termination-September-3-2013.pdf

August 24, 2013 Horseback Magazine Dances with Wolves author Michael Blake joins lawsuit to stop ongoing wild horse roundups: http://horsebackmagazine.com/hb/archives/24124

Breaking News: Michael Blake joins lawsuit to stop ongoing wild horse roundups (August 24, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5060

Citizens Against Equine Slaughter and Protect Mustangs file preliminary injunction (August 24, 2013): PLAINTIFFS’ MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION AND MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT

Horses saved and horses lost at Native American horse auction (August 17, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5023

Information about Fallon Livestock Auction (August 17, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=4999

Temporary Restraining Order Granted (August 16, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=4990

Viral article: August 16, 2013 The Associated Press US judge refuses to block NV tribe’s mustang sale http://www.idahostatesman.com/2013/08/15/2708155/us-judge-in-nv-asked-to-block.html

Press Release: Lawsuit filed to save wild horses from alleged slaughter (August 16, 2013):  http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5001

Official request to terminate roundup agreement, request DNA testing, separate unbranded wild horses, etc. (August 15, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=4969

# # #

  • Contact Us

Legal win creates public transparency and halts 2-year roundup contract

Photo James Marvin Phelps / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Photo James Marvin Phelps / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

For immediate release

Legal victory stops illegal USFS Gather Agreement that was sending horses into alleged kill buyers hands

RENO, NV. (September 26, 2013)–Protect Mustangs, the California nonprofit, dedicated to protecting native wild horses and Citizens Against Equine Slaughter (CAES), the Oregon nonprofit, won their lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the United States Forest Service (USFS). The groups fought for public transparency and to halt the government’s two-year roundup agreement.

The United States Forest Service and the Fort McDermitt Tribe signed a Gather Agreement on May 30, 2013, which directed taxpayer dollars and federal personnel to illegally roundup unbranded, wild, free-roaming horses on Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest lands and tribal lands until May 31, 2015.

However, as a direct result of the complaint and injunction filed by Protect Mustangs and CAES, the USDA Forest Service terminated the Gather Agreement on September 3, 2013.

The groups specifically requested the court order “the USFS and the BLM to withdraw the Notice and 2013 Horse Gather Agreement until such time as the agency demonstrates to this Court that it has adequately complied with the law.” Instead of litigating the legality of the Gather Agreement, the USFS did exactly what the two groups requested and terminated the Agreement.

“The McDermitt nightmare was the first of what could have been two solid years of heinous roundups authorized by the USFS Gather Agreement,” says Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs. “We are grateful the lawsuit resulted in the Forest Service terminating the agreement because so many horses were ending up in kill-buyers hands. Many were saved by equine welfare groups but sadly a lot of horses ended up allegedly slaughtered.”

“It’s unfortunate the first McDermitt roundup wasn’t stopped before horses were sold at auction, but we’re glad we got rid of the underlying Agreement that made the McDermitt roundups possible and authorized an undisclosed number of similar roundups until May of 2015,” explains Dr.Lester Castro Friedlander, DVM, president of Citizens Against Equine Slaughter.

Academy Award-winner and member of Protect Mustangs, Michael Blake (Dances with Wolves), stated in his declaration that he received “great inspiration watching wild horses roaming free in Nevada”. He believes if they are rounded up, removed, killed or slaughtered he would suffer harm by loosing that inspiration. Blake is pleased the two year roundup agreement was terminated.

Protect Mustangs is a nonprofit organization devoted to protecting native wild horses. Their mission is to educate the public about the indigenous wild horse, protect and research American wild horses on the range and help those who have lost their freedom.

Citizens Against Equine Slaughter is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of America’s wild and domestic horses.

Protect Mustangs and Citizens Against Equine Slaughter were represented in this case by Jones Law Firm of Reno, Nevada and Beckett Law Office of Ashland, Oregon.

# # #

Media Contacts:

Anne Novak, 415-531-8454, Anne@ProtectMustangs.org

Jordan Beckett, 541-510-0333. jordan@roguevalleylawyer.com

Photos, interviews and video available upon request

Links of interest™:
PM Protect Mustangs CAES Win 30 Day Notice Forest Service & Ft. McDermitt USDA 17 Sept 2013
PM Protect Mustangs CAES McDermitt Participating Agreement Termination September 3 2013
Academy Award-winner, Michael Blake, joins lawsuit to stop ongoing wild horse roundups (August 24, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5060
Lawsuit filed to save wild horses from alleged slaughter (August 16, 2013): http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5001
U.S. Judge refuses to block NV tribe’s mustang sale, The Associated
Beckett Law Office, P.C. http://www.roguevalleylawyer.com/
Wild Free Roaming Horse & Burro Act http://www.wildhorseandburro.blm.gov/92-195.htm
Link to this press release: http://protectmustangs.org/?p=5185

2010 Owyhee roundup ~ Cloud Foundation denied access to observe

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Photo © Anne Evans for The Cloud Foundation


The Cloud Foundation
Media Contacts:

Anne Novak
Tel: 415-531-8454

Makendra Silverman
Tel: 719-351-8187

For Immediate Release:

BLM Above the Law?

Salazar’s Agency Ignores Federal Court Order Honoring First Amendment, Denies Observers Access to Wild Horse Roundup

Reno, NV (July 19, 2010)—Laura Leigh, Herd Watch Project Coordinator for The Cloud Foundation, has been denied access to observe the Owyhee roundup, the first leg of the Tuscarora roundup near Elko, Nevada. On July 16th, Federal Judge Larry Hicks’ ruled Leigh’s First Amendment rights be upheld and therefore allow her and others to view the roundup. Leigh contends that the BLM has gone against the Judge’s orders for three days. Today Leigh filed a motion to uphold the court order for her First Amendment rights.

BLM officials refused to tell her where the trap site was located. They had strategically placed it on private land within the public herd management area (HMA) even though the range contains more than 450,000 acres of public land. The private landowner would not grant Leigh and others access. BLM used this method before to hide the Calico roundup from the public and journalists except for rare staged “media days”.

The helicopter stampede resumed as soon as the Judge lifted the injunction last Friday. Since then BLM has captured 620 mustangs and their young foals in the sweltering heat. More than 17 wild horses have been killed during the roundup. At least 2 foals were shot (euthanized) because of leg deformities resulting in lameness after being run over many miles of volcanic rock. Advocates question the accuracy of the diagnosis—pointing to evidence that lameness previously was caused by running the hoofs off the baby horses during last winter’s Calico roundup in Nevada also run by Cattoor Livestock, the private contractor who will be paid close to one million dollars for this roundup.

The BLM has created an alleged wild horses dehydration emergency by fencing mustangs off from water and running them scared by helicopter into traps. Advocates feel it is inhumane that the BLM is not treating the wild horses in the wild for dehydration but instead the BLM continues to chase them, round them up and ship the wild horses crammed in huge trucks for more than 5 hours to a temporary holding facility—all in the desert heat.

“These are wild animals. If this alleged emergency was happening to deer or big horn sheep the BLM would not be terrifying them by helicopter chase and then trucking them for half a day in the sweltering heat to be cared for at a distant location. Traditionally you care for distressed wild animals in the wild,” states Makendra Silverman, Associate Director of The Cloud Foundation. “And isn’t it curious that other wildlife or cattle isn’t suffering extreme dehydration out on the same range?”

Leigh had filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop this roundup and defend the public’s first amendment rights to observe the operation. BLM testified in federal court that no cattle remained on the range and that the horses had no water—even though a river is only 10 miles away, a short distance to travel for wild horses who under normal circumstances may travel twice that distance in daily treks to get a drink.

4,000 privately-owned cattle are permitted to graze (and drink) on the Tuscarora Complex where BLM permits only 400 mustangs.  Made up by three separate HMAs: Owyhee, Little Humboldt and Rock Creek, the area is to be managed by BLM principally (though not exclusively) for the federally protected wild horses.

The foundation wants to know what is stopping the horses from accessing the Owyhee River and other perennial water sources? Are gates locked and vast areas fenced for livestock in the HMA?

“BLM’s emergency roundups are classified as such before the action begins. The three Tuscarora roundups were never described as emergencies. Suddenly, with the BLM challenged in court and 12 dead horses from the first day’s roundup their operation has suddenly morphed into an ‘emergency rescue’ roundup,” states Cloud Foundation Director, Ginger Kathrens, who has 16 years experience documenting wild horses in the West. “There is really no way to accurately assess the real, on-the-ground situation because the public is still being denied access. Is BLM resorting to any means just to carry out an agenda to rid the western ranges of wild horses?”

The three Tuscarora roundups (Owyhee, Little Humbolt and Rock Creek) were scheduled months ago as a standard BLM operation. The wild horses were found to be healthy. The primary reason for the roundups was because the wild horses were allegedly damaging livestock fencing. The public, mustang advocates, animal welfare groups and equine experts warned against summer helicopter roundups in the desert heat. The BLM ignored the comments.

The Cloud Foundation calls for immediate access to be given to all members of the interested public and for the addition of at least two knowledgeable wild horse advocates to BLM’s assembled team of insiders to determine what went wrong in the Owyhee disaster.

“Right now BLM plans to zero out the entire West Douglas herd in Colorado against a Federal Judge’s specific ruling to leave the herd intact. For the past three days, BLM ignored Judge Hicks’ ruling for the First Amendment,” states Kathrens. “Who will stop Salazar’s rogue bureau before they ruin the West?”

# # #

Links of interest:
Washington Post reports on NV Roundup Resuming http://bit.ly/cRwhSc
NBC Reno reports BLM Still Restricting Public Access to Roundup http://bit.ly/bE2wiJ
Leigh vs Salazar Documents filed 7/19 that relate to Leigh’s attempt to observe the Owyhee roundup and uphold her First Amendment rights:
Motion for Contempt http://bit.ly/bSAZax
Declaration for Motion http://bit.ly/9AY4x5
Exhibit A DOI Letter http://bit.ly/aL8w95

‘Herd-Watch: Public Eyes for Public Horses’ http://bit.ly/9Wvh58
Court Order Granting Injunction http://bit.ly/doc10LeighvSalazar
Grass Roots Horse http://www.grassrootshorse.com/
BLM daily reports on Tuscarora roundup http://bit.ly/TuscaroraReports
Roundup Schedule- updated July 12, 2010  http://bit.ly/roundupschedule
The Mustang Conspiracy: Sex, Drugs, Corruption, and BP – investigative report http://www.abovetopsecret.com/mustangconspiracy/
Wild Horse and Burro Act http://bit.ly/a7hOeS
Tuscarora/Owyhee Complex Roundup Information from BLM http://bit.ly/Tuscarora

Disappointment Valley… A Modern Day Western Trailer- excellent sample of interviews regarding the issues http://bit.ly/awFbwm
PR Firm Hired for the Destruction of America’s Wild Horse and Burro Herds http://bit.ly/czf3HB
Fact Sheet on Wild Herds & The Salazar Plan http://bit.ly/bfdX1y

Massive roundup at Owyhee

Join Rachel Fazio at Twin Peaks hearing 2/24

Old Gold trampled in trap pen. (Photo © Cat Kindsfather, all rights reserved.)

Protect Mustangs invites you to join us showing our support for wild horses and burros at a pivotal hearing to defend their rights.

The Twin Peaks hearing has been rescheduled for Friday February 24, 2012 at 10:00 a.m.

Location:    United States District Court

Eastern District of California

501 I Street

Sacramento, California

The case to protect wild horses and burros will be argued in front of Morrison England Jr., Courtroom #7 which is on the 14th floor.

There is paid parking across the street in the Amtrack parking lot.

The Courthouse opens at 9:00 a.m. – if you want to be guaranteed a seat you should arrive early so that you can get through security.

Bring friends, signs and banners to show your support for their freedom to roam the American West.