Environmental & Wild Horse Organizations Seek to Block Interior Dept. from Castrating Wild Stallions and Destroying Free Roaming Herds
Washington, DC (July 25, 2011) Western Watersheds Project, a leading environmental organization and the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), a national coalition, have filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that asks the court to block the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from implementing an unprecedented plan that initiates the destruction of two wild horse populations in southwestern Wyoming.
At issue is the BLM’s decision to convert federally-protected wild horse populations in the one-million-acre White Mountain and Little Colorado Herd Management Areas (HMAs) to "minimally-reproducing" herds by removing 90 percent of the wild horse population and returning only castrated stallions to the range. The White Mountain/Little Colorado roundup is scheduled to begin in mid-August 2011.
The lawsuit was filed by the Washington, DC-based public interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal. Other plaintiffs include Donna and Greg Duckworth, a local Green River, Wyoming couple who enjoy wild horse viewing in the HMAs, and Carol Walker, a well-known wildlife photographer who has photographed the wild horses in this region for many years.
The complaint alleges that the action "will irreparably disrupt and destroy the social organization, natural wild and free-roaming behavior and viability of these herds," in violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA). In addition, the agency’s failure to "solicit public comment or . . . analyze or explain the environmental consequences of its decision" flagrantly violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the complaint charges.
On June 14, the BLM blindsided the public with the announcement that it would remove 100 percent of the horses living in the Little Colorado and White Mountain HMAs and return a small number of sterilized horses – castrating the males and performing uncommon and life-threatening surgical spaying on the females. One week later, the BLM backed off that plan, and later announced that it would proceed with the currently proposed action to remove 90 percent of the estimated 800 horses living in the area and return 177 gelded stallions to the range.
"This Wyoming action makes clear the BLM’s design to manage America’s wild horses to extinction – by turning healthy wild free-roaming herds into dysfunctional, non-viable populations that will die out over time," said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC campaign director. "Since Congress unanimously passed the Act 40 years ago, the BLM has systematically take away more than one-third of federally-designated habitat for wild horses and burros, and reduced population numbers to below 1970’s levels when Congress determined that the mustangs were ‘fast disappearing’ from the West and needed federal protection."
According to AWHPC, the BLM is rounding up wild mustangs en masse from the West in service to the livestock industry, which enjoys taxpayer-subsidized grazing on public lands. Western Watersheds Project maintains that "Public lands ranching is the most widespread commercial use of public lands in the United States. Ranching is one of the primary causes of native species endangerment in the American West; it is also the most significant cause of non-point source water pollution and desertification."
In the White Mountain and Little Colorado HMAs, the BLM claims that no more than 400 wild horses can live on one million acres of public lands, yet it authorizes ten times that number of cattle and sheep to range on those same lands, according to AWHPC.
Courtesy of AWHPC