Horse News

Is a TRO in BLM’s Future?

by Steven Long, editor of Horseback Magazine


"Cloud the Stallion" after capture by the BLM (Photo by Terry Fitch)

HOUSTON, (Horseback) – Activists have been scratching their heads as the federal Bureau of Land Management sweeps America’s wild horses from the Western landscape. Why? Because the 1971 Wild Horse and Burro Act clearly set aside plenty of room for them almost 40 years ago and the agency appears to be in violation of federal law.

The first paragraph of the law is clear cut.

“It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands.”

Helicopter induced stampedes, multiple brands, killing, and capture of the horses are prohibited, yet all happen on BLM gathers – violations that happen now weekly by the thousands.

Yet BLM consistently says there is no room for the animals as it administers almost 260 million acres of largely vacant land and leases whole chunks of wild horse acreage set aside by Congress for wild horses to ranchers for grazing, land that could be returned to Mustang habitat under the law.

Moreover, the agency consistently has sloppy bookkeeping in its wild horse and burro program that appears to be often blatantly misleading yet ignored by congressional oversight.

What has prompted furious head scratching by wild horse lovers is the vexing question of why a smart lawyer on their side hasn’t marched into federal court with a request for a temporary restraining order tucked in his briefcase to stop the so called BLM “gathers.”

Such an injunction could bring the roundups to a screeching halt.

A case in point is the landmark injunction issued by Texas Judge William Wayne Justice who died recently. By his order, the state’s prison system was changed from the “Boss Hog” era to the state of the art correctional system we see today in the Lone Star State. The injunction held for 30 years.

On the surface, such an action against BLM appears clear cut. The 1971 law is written in plain language and to a layman, the BLM is in blatant violation of it.

National organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States who have the wherewithal to file such a lawsuit have been woefully absent in the fight, animal welfare advocates say.

They point to the recent roundup in Montana’s Pryor Mountains where the iconic stallion Cloud and his herd were captured, some mares sterilized, and broken up. They claim the Pryor Mountain horses are no longer genetically viable as a herd.



Former Pryor Mountain Wild Horses (Photo by Terry Fitch)


HSUS was nowhere to be seen during the Labor Day week controversy.

The Pryor horses are a recognized breed in the official Horse Breeds Standards Guide, If the activists claims are correct, a federal agency has wiped out a recognized breed of horse by making its only herd genetically bankrupt.

Activists aren’t the only interested parties with an itch. Even lawyers with a specialty in animal activism are scratching their heads at why nobody has sought an injunction.

“I’m not sure either,” said one attorney who declined to be identified. “It would have seemed the best course a couple of years ago instead of all this piecemeal litigation, but there is a belief among, I guess, most of the lawyers who do this that it is better to challenge each BLM action, keep on top of them that way, because we can’t stop the gathers or BLM’s role.”

And large scale litigation is expensive and no lawyer willing to work on a huge landmark case for free has come forward.

“I see a basis for a suit,” the lawyer told Horseback Online “If you know of any attorneys who are respected in Washington and licensed to practice in federal court, send them my way.”

Stop the Roundups of our Wild Horses and Burros

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8 replies »

  1. RT:

    I had some ideas and wonder if I could contact you off line through my email address? Since this is a public forum, I’m uncomfortable naming names, giving out email addys, etc. I don’t see a contact for you or the webmaster here. Any ideas?


  2. Do we know exactly what Conrad Birdie did, when he snuck that amendment in? I agree with you Suzanne. That was against the law, but it slid threw. If any thing they should be charged with animal abuse, death of an animals, supposedly protected animals.


  3. I love this pic of Cloud. Although on the other hand I really wish he hadn’t even been in captivitey for a sec. I remember seeing him I think it was on this last “gather” (I hate round up and I hate gathers–sorry for the bluntness). He had turned to face the corrals because of his missing mares and foals. After several seconds he BUCKED so high–his hooves were higher than his rump when he was just standing! His tail flopped to one side. That’s the image I have of him “MOONING THE BLM”! I wish there was a way to tell him that he has caught me hook line and sinker.

    I don’t understand why the BLM turned him loose all those years ago to have him breed (in hopes that he would become a band stallion) and now all they can do is take his kids every “gather” and sterilized his mares. This is so arbitrary. How so they think he can “replicate” himself if they take all his kids????

    And Cloud is older now. Sterilizing his mares makes no sense. By the time that PZP loses its effectiveness Cloud may have lost his mares.

    I may not be the most knowledgable person about horses but it sure seems to me that I at least can think some of this through. And I do know the difference between waiting a few more minutes and quietly directing Floyd to the chutes than smacking him on the butt to get him to move and in the process hitting him in the face. And let’s not forget the fact that they hotshotted him too.

    The BLM to me proved that they don’t have the horses best interest at heart when they released Cloud as a two year old with two other band stallions that had their mares with them.

    I like Ginger and I like the fact that she has tried her darndest to give Trace a good home. And to those new owners of Image and Ember who sent in an update on them.


  4. What about getting massive amount of people to take a trip down to “our” public lands and holding a protest, like they do with the marches in washington. Why not visist “our” lands and get see what is really going on, but do it in massive numbers. Then ofcourse get the media to cover it all.


  5. A TRO is exactly what is needed. The law and means through the law is what is needed. Nothing can stop the BLM other than deliberate actions taken by those that are wanting to stop this by using the law … they found a loop hole, now we need an attorney that will find one too


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