Feds sued over plan to cull wild horses in Nevada

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Wild horses are pursued by a contractor’s helicopter during November 2016’s Owyhee roundup in Nevada. RTF file photo by Steve Paige.

 

As published by Courthouse News Service

Wild horse advocates sued Bureau of Land Management Wednesday over a plan to remove wild horses from tracts of land in rural Nevada.

In a federal lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., the plaintiff groups claim the plan, created a decade ago but approved only this year, violates a 40-year-old federal law that gives power to the agency to manage wild horse populations.

The removal plan is part of a proposed resource management plan that was started in 2008 and approved in March of this year. It details the needs of wild horse populations and concerns surrounding their presence on grazing lands throughout the western United States.

Included in the plan, according to the complaint, is the removal of about 1,700 horses from 700,000 acres of public lands called the Caliente Herd Area Complex.

It is this removal plan that the plaintiffs, American Wild Horse Campaign, Western Watersheds Project, and land owner Laura Cunningham, take issue with.

According to the complaint, the agency fell short of federal requirements to disclose and consider baseline information and environmental impacts from the removal and didn’t analyze the effects livestock grazing and wild horse use would have on the environment.

The groups also say Bureau of Land Management failed to consider reasonable alternatives, including the “obvious alternative of reducing the amount of livestock permitted on these federal public lands.”

This lack of oversight, the complaint claims, violates the The Wild Free-Roaming Horses And Burros Act Of 1971 which was passed to specifically protect and support wild horse populations.

“The wild horse family bands in the Caliente Complex are extremely popular with wild horse advocates, photographers, and tourists,” said Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation, another group listed as a plaintiff in the suit, in a public comment submitted late last year during the BLM’s review of the proposed removal plan.

She criticized the agency for claiming the available grazing land had been reduced while at the same time the population had grown at a rate that would require removal.

“If forage and water were all but unavailable to these animals, they would not be able to reproduce at a rate that has so alarmed the BLM,” she said.

The groups are seeking a judicial order blocking the bureau from removing the horses.

A representative of the Bureau of Land Management said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

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