Federal Court Forces Interior Department to Consider Scientific Evidence Regarding Wild Horse Management

Press Release from the Cloud Foundation

Judge Rejects Gov’t Attempt to Ignore Expert Declarations on Negative Impacts of Plan to Castrate Wild Nevada Stallions


Washington, DC – May 10, 2012 – The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has rejected an attempt by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to withhold and ignore critical scientific evidence in its decision-making process for the implementation of a precedent-setting plan to castrate wild stallions. At issue were expert declarations submitted to the BLM from leading experts in wild horse behavior and biology outlining the devastating impacts of castration on the health and natural behaviors of wild free-roaming stallions and wild horse herds. 

The ruling is part of litigation filed in December 2011 by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC),Western Watersheds Project and The Cloud Foundation challenging the BLM’s  illegal plan to castrate hundreds of wild stallions in eastern Nevada’s Pancake Complex, as well as to eliminate wild horses from the Jake’s Wash Herd Management Area, which lies within the Complex. The ruling on this case will have widespread implication for thousands of the remaining wild horses living free and wild on public lands. 

The Honorable U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell stated in her 23-page opinion that the agency “may not simply remainstudiously ignorant of material scientific evidence well known to the agency and brought directly to its attention in timely-filed comments.” She decisively rejected the BLM’s attempt to exclude the expert declarations from the agency’s decision-making process and affirmed that the Court would consider the “material scientific evidence” contained in the declarations as in future rulings in the case.

“The BLM went to great lengths to avoid considering scientific information provided by leading wild horse experts,” said Suzanne Roy, director of AWHPC. “The agency is not interested in science, it’s only interest is clearing our public lands of wild horses to make room for livestock grazing and other commercial interests.” 

“This is yet another example of the agency’s epidemic refusal to incorporate science in its management of wild horse and burros herds,” said Ginger Kathrens, executive director of The Cloud Foundation. “We commend Judge Howell for seeing through the BLM’s thinly veiled excuses and standing up for science and the right of the public to have input into government management decisions.” 

The scientific evidence submitted by Plaintiffs that the BLM attempted to ignore included a declaration from Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, the Director of Science and Conservation Biology at Zoo Montana and a foremost authority on wildlife reproductive biology. He stated: 

“The very essence of the wild horse, that is, what makes it a wild horse, is the social organization and social behaviors. Geldings (castrated male horses) no longer exhibit the natural behaviors of non-castrated stallions. We know this to be true from hundreds of years experience with gelded domestic horses. Furthermore, gelded stallions will not keep their bands together, which is an integral part of a viable herd. These social dynamics were molded by millions of years of evolution, and will be destroyed if the BLM returns castrated horses to the HMAs. . . . Castrating horses will effectively remove the biological and physiological controls that prompt these stallions to behave like wild horses. This will negatively impact the place of the horse in the social order of the band and the herd.

The other declarations, submitted by Dr. Allen Rutberg of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine; Dr. Anne Perkins of Carroll College in Montana;  and Dr. Bruce Nock, a faculty member at Washington University School of Medicine provided further scientific information about the impacts of castration on wild stallions and wild horse herds.

Other plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit challenging aspects of the Pancake roundup include wildlife ecologist Craig Downer and 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 Washington D.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.

14 comments on “Federal Court Forces Interior Department to Consider Scientific Evidence Regarding Wild Horse Management

  1. They need to do the job they were entrusted by the American people and protect not destroy our wild herds. This public land was set aside for them not cattle and special corporate interests who want them removed so they can mine and strip America of it’s natural resources while leaving our beautiful country barren, water supply depleted and contaminated, and it’s forest and foliage destroyed. Wake Up America look around the world. Think it’s a coincidence that companies like BP hold the most leases on public land. Think about the gulf and the exchange of employees between BP and the depart of interior. Think of Salizars lack of enforcement of environmental protection inspection now the gulf is destroy it will never be the same. America will never be the same if we leave corporate greed destroy are country. The managent of wild herds to extinction is the first step in the erosion of our countries public land, water supply, and though people say it is being an extremist to say the down fall of America. The writing is on the wall so our government needs to remember they work for American and put America as a priority. Enough is Enough Americans need to take care of our own or we can’t take care of others and will leave a legacy of greed, corruptions, and a barren land to our future generation. Thank you to this judge who actually not being intimidating and doing the job elected to do.

  2. Kudos to Judge Howell for realizing the importance of Our Wild mustangs to the environment !!!! Job Well done !!!!! We need more Brilliant Judges to do the Job they were entrusted to !!!!!! Our Wild Mustangs belong on the Range unanimously voted on by Congress !!!!!!

  3. Kudo’s to the plaintiffs for establishing precedent….whether it can make a tangible difference for the better for our wild equines still remains unanswered.

  4. A major step in setting precedence. Since Congress can’t get their act together we’ll let the courts decide and in my mind this is a miraculous first step.

    It also brings up a concern I have with the agreement between the BLM and Mustang Monument for 900 geldings. With this study I think the agreement needs to be re-visited. No one wants to see 900 horses grazing…big deal. Stallions and their harems and eventually foals will create the social and family structures that people, like myself, would truly like to see. No we don’t wish ill on the geldings. They just are not the norm in nature.

    Now that they (BLM) can’t plead ignorance anymore maybe the Monument can get some breeding pairs. Wouldn’t it be great to have a place where families can live together without fear of man!

  5. Castrating the stallions horrendously damages the natural selection in the herd. Only the strongest and fittest stallions lead and breed a herd. By taking away the natural process for that, they will genetically weaken our wild horse herds. I truly believe that they know this, and WANT to weaken the herds. Thank you Judge Howell, Ginger, John, and everyone else who is fighting for our wild horses. Once they are gone, the breed will be ruined and never be the same. These horses are a national treasure and the BLM would love to see them extinct. The BLM is making them endangered and they need to be on an endangered list so they can be protected!

  6. This is a HUGE, very important win for the wild horses!!!!!!!!!! Thank you to the Cloud Foundation, AWHPC, Western Watersheds Project, Craig, Arla, Judge Howell and Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal!
    Way to go!

  7. Dear RT What a Beautiful Photo at the top of this page, a Magnificent Beauty !!!!!! This beauty has a very special way of communicating …With his or her expressive face !!!!!!!

  8. Reblogged this on STOP ANIMAL ABUSE and commented:
    A horse can’t be classed as wild if it is castrated. The BLM just want to do away with the wild horses as quick as they can, to enable the walking burgers enough area to graze. It’s disgusting & I too commend the Judge for not being a brown nose to the BLM!

  9. It’s moments like these that feel like justice is coming out of it’s coma. Here’s why they want to eradicate Pancake herds (side note – Barrick Gold holds welfare grazing permits on PUBLIC lands):

    The BLM Ely District, Egan Field Office is soliciting written comments regarding a Midway
    Gold US, Inc., proposal to construct and operate a gold mine, known as the Pan Mine Project, on
    mining claims and other land administered by the BLM. The project would be served by a 25 kV
    electric transmission line proposed by Mt. Wheeler Power on a new BLM Right-of-Way. The
    BLM is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to evaluate all feasible and
    reasonable alternatives, and potential impacts of the proposed project.
    The proposed project would be located in the Pancake Mountain Range, in White Pine County,
    Nevada, approximately 50 miles west of Ely and 22 miles southeast of Eureka. The proposed
    project is an open-pit gold mine with two larger pits and four smaller pits, as well as crushing
    facilities and stockpiles; two waste rock disposal areas; a heap leach pad and associated
    conveyors; processing facilities and ponds; water supply wells; haul roads and access roads;
    ancillary facilities; and 25 kV transmission line. Construction and operation of the mine would
    result in approximately 3,140 acres of disturbance that includes the previously authorized
    exploration disturbance of 100 acres. Upon completion of mining, the operation would be
    reclaimed.
    Your comments will help guide development of the EIS, including the identification of relevant
    issues and possible alternatives. Written comments should be addressed to the BLM Ely District
    Office, HC 33 Box 33500, Ely, NV 89301, Attn: Miles Kreidler. Comments should be
    postmarked or otherwise delivered to the Ely District Office by Wednesday, May 16, 2012, to
    ensure full consideration. Comments may also be faxed to Kreidler at (775) 289-1910 or
    submitted electronically to BLM_NV_EYDO_Midway_Pan_EIS@blm.gov. Please make your
    comments as specific as possible.

    Not only is this a bad for the horses but also the precious water resources in this region. Can’t drink gold.

    For more info and to take action please visit: http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6931/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=10589

  10. …the agency “may not simply remain studiously ignorant of material scientific evidence well known to the agency and brought directly to its attention in timely-filed comments.”

    This statement from the judge is like music to my ears.

    Many of us have learned about the filthy dirty actions by the BLM toward our WH&B and our public lands and we have tried and tried to share the truth (including material scientific evidence) only to be purposely ignored. One problem has been that BLM has never been forced to listen to the truth and now this judge says they must! Let’s see if BLM continues to think that the laws of America do not pertain to them – as they have publically stated – or if this judge’s statement will truely make a difference. Got my fingers crossed.

  11. The term “studiously ignored” is rich with implication. It is an oxymoron on its face, and then a bit of a paradox. It is difficult to study what you ignore. It implies that the BLM has studied very carefully that which they choose to ignore. They have studied the facts well enough to understand thoroughly what the facts that they choose to ignore are, but, nonetheless, still ignore them.

    Most people who deny science are ignorant of it, but this implies that the BLM is fully informed of the science, understands the science, and yet chooses to ignore the science. Why?Because the BLM has never internalized its role to manage our public lands as an agency guided by science. Rather the BLM continues to conceive its role today as it was in the 1950’s, nothing more than a grazing lease management system. Grazing lease permits are all the BLM has ever cared about, ever concerned itself about doing, and all they really hope to be responsible for.

    A government bureaucracy that does not serve the best interests of the American people has no place in our government.

  12. Reblogged this on cssssswv and commented:
    Wonder-filled Update, from Matt! (Thank <3 you!) …reblogged to cssssswv.wordpress.com
    & I Love these great NAMES :) especially. "Maia ", "Miocene ", & "Millicent" !
    + I thought the suggestion by BC-NRA of "Mercuria " 4 *foal of Icara* was ingenious! {But I'm not sure IF that became her ~ accepted name ~ or not? } …
    what about something ~stormy like "Maelstrom " — 4 *Firestorm 's boy?

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