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Lawsuit Filed to Halt Nevada Wild Horse Roundup

Mass roundup of Nevada Wild Horses Inhumane and Illegal, Suit Charges

Craig Downer - Wildlife Ecologist and outspoken Wild Horse Advocate

Washington, DC (IDA) – In Defense of Animals and ecologist Craig Downer today filed suit, in the federal U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, to stop the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed massive roundup and removal of more than 2,700 wild horses from public lands in Nevada. The roundup, slated to begin in early December, will take virtually every wild horse living in the Calico Complex Herd Management Area in northwestern Nevada. It is by far the largest of any wild horse roundup planned by the BLM for Fiscal Year 2010.

“This suit aims to halt the inherent cruelty of the BLM’s wild horse roundups, which traumatize, injure and kill horses, subvert the will of Congress and are entirely illegal,” said William Spriggs, Esq., a partner at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and lead counsel on the law suit. The firm is representing IDA and Mr. Downer on a pro bono basis.

The suit alleges that the BLM plan to utilize helicopters to indiscriminately chase as many as 2,738 of the estimated 3,095 Calico horses into holding pens violates the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act, passed unanimously in 1971. The Act designated America’s wild horses and burros as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” specifying they “shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death … [and that] to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where presently found, as an integral part of the natural system of public lands.

“Americans strongly support protecting wild horses on their natural ranges in the West.” Mr. Spriggs continued. “We hope to stop the cruel roundups and mass stockpiling of wild horses and burros in government holding facilities while the Obama Administration crafts a new policy that protects these animals and upholds the will of Congress and the public’s desire to preserve this important part of our national heritage.”

Since 1971, the BLM has removed over 270,000 horses from their Western home ranges and taken away nearly 20 million acres of wild horse habitat on public lands that were protected by Congress as being “necessary to sustain an existing herd or herds of wild horses and burros … and … is devoted principally … to their welfare.” The policy is based on the unsupportable claim that Western ranges cannot sustain wild horses and burros. These animals comprise a tiny fraction of animals grazing the range. An estimated 8 million livestock, but only 37,000 horses and burros, graze on public lands.

Thirty-two thousand wild horses who have been removed from the range are already held in government holding facilities, and the BLM intends to round up 12,000 more horses in FY 2010.

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization located in San Rafael, Calif. dedicated to protecting animals’ rights, welfare, and habitat through education, outreach, and our hands-on rescue facilities in Mumbai, India, Cameroon, Africa, and rural Mississippi.

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28 replies »

  1. This wonderful, let’s hope it truly does stop at least this insane Nevada round up! When we raise our voices as one, we really can get things done!


  2. My outrage is that, considering the 1971 Act if there is one cow or sheep left on a range where mustangs/burros are actively being removed…..then the DOI/BLM (ergo the Federal Government) is direct violation of the 1971 Act.

    Not one horse, not one burro should be removed until all the livestock are removed! Period! As to the starving mantra repeatedly being peddled by DOI/BLM (and we must include state, USDA and USFS too), Mother Nature knows better than humans. The “starving” spittle speak is nothing more than a ploy on the part of BLM to justify removal and play on human emotions. In conclusion, I’d rather see a mustang/burro starve (barring water hole fencing off and reduction of land) before being rounded up. So the idea that we anti-slaughter are emotional seems to be negated by the emotional, non-science of the Federal and State governments.

    Notice that these evil doers have stopped with the, “the mustangs don’t have natural predators spittle speak” as of late. Ginger Katherins latest installment of Cloud clearly shows that age, infirmities, weather and predators seem to be contributing to the herd population numbers. Where in the hell does this “they repopulate at a rate of 20-40% per annum”?!?! Liars! And to think that we are paying for this sanctioned holocaust!


  3. I attended a BLM wild horse round up on the Tobin range in Nevada this October as well as spent time interviewing Craig Downer, a dedicated wild horse advocate. A moratorium on round ups is surely needed as the BLM is on this round up to extinction approach. Bear in mind, the BLM & Natl. Forest Service received a fat $301 Million stimulus check to fast track alternative energy development on public lands. It appears they targeted horse management areas as the first places to develop these systems. {selling land deals and permits is their specialty) I wish the best to whoever can slow down or change the situation for America’s wild horses — but keep in mind, Government lands is a house of cards, filled with legalities, clauses, amendments, pork barrel deals and loop holes. It will take a lot of research and effort to un-do the mess of public land deals now. Meanwhile, fight the good fight, but don’t dismiss, other sustainable solutions for America’s wild horses. I see a lot of wealthy people’s names on the list to save the horses and burros but I don’t hear of their money being used to buy large parcels of land for sanctuaries and rescues. Keep tuned in to www. to learn of silver linings and non-profits to support.


    • Mara- You have a beautiful website. I agree we need realistic alternatives to slaughter and captivity under horrid BLM control. I fear only the private sector will be able save our public horses. Madeleine Pickens has offered her assistance but I don’t think she is getting enough support. Her ideas may need some tweaking in order to make them plausible, but at least she is trying. We all want all the horses to always be free, but this may not be possible forever. The ones in captivity need help now and the ones who are still free need to stay that way. There are a lot of people working to get the future round ups stopped. I feel so sorry for the ones who we were not able to save on the range. Thank you for sticking up for our horses. -Kathy


  4. Mara, I have been asking about to hear something of the Tobin roundup. I hope you can tell us about it since you were there. Just because BLM has decided to develope the horse and burro lands does not mean they will without running into a fight. Since it is designated land there is a great chance they will lose to the horses. But people are aware of the intricacies of the Government now, if they weren’t already. But please come back and share with us, we need news. Mar


  5. I don’t understand why the horses have to be removed to explore/excavate/drill or whatever on any land? The Alaska pipeline goes right through land where wildlife still live. Wildlife has always adapted to man’s presence. I can’t see how they could get in the way overly much. Surely they are not planning to dig up every square inch of every parcel of land the horses own… are they?


  6. kas, They don’t have to be removed. And their land has not been given over to any projects that with a lawful right as far as I know. Whatever has been done; cattle grazing permits to pipelines, are not legal. You must realize that BLM does not own the land even when they act like they do. There are processes that have been bypassed and ignored. Constantly, to the point the average American thinks BLM runs it all. We have to keep at this fight because we are the ones telling BLM/DOI that they are answerable to us, BIg Time. mar


    • Thanks Mar, I know the law is on the side of the horses and ours. But just like the Burns amendment, they are such sly bastards how can we watch every nook and cranny they might try to sneak threw? I just wish everything was fair. Am I that dumb to think or elected officials should be fair? Big money is one thing driving this vicious wheel and greed. We just have to have bigger voices. The squeaky wheel should get the grease, at least first anyway. -Kathy


  7. Kas, It is not a fair fight and they are fighting dirty all the way. BLM are appointed and then hires, no one is elected. That is a major part of the problem with DOI/BLM. The appointees and other directors come and go from very lucrative CEO and private business jobs. They are the insiders and we are on the outside. We can change this with what we are doing best; telling people and digging for the truth. Mar


    • Mar- I hope you are right, at least people in Washington are starting to finally listen! I have an email going to one of my state reps, I think I will amend it to include voiding the Bloody Burns Bill. Makes me sick. I’m ready… CHARGE! -Kathy


  8. Skip the romantic ideas about wild horses. These are really feral animals. How many of you would advocate for the feeding or housing feral cats or dogs in your backyard? That’s exactly what those of us in the Midwest are being asked to do because their native range can no longer sustain them.


    • JDonohue (Jody);

      With all due respect, your arrogance exceeds your ignorance.

      “Modern horses, zebras, and asses (no insult intended, JD) belong to the genus Equus, the only surviving genus in a once diverse family, the Equidae. Based on fossil records, the genus appears to have originated in North America about 4 million years ago and spread to Eurasia (presumably by crossing the Bering land bridge) 2 to 3 million years ago. Following that original emigration, there were additional westward migrations to Asia and return migrations back to North America, as well as several extinctions of Equus species in North America.

      The last prehistoric North American horses died out between 13,000 and 11,000 years ago, at the end of the Pleistocene, but by then Equus had spread to Asia, Europe, and Africa.”

      Direct quote from the world renowned Natural History Magazine by scholars Jay F. Kirkpatrick and Patricia M. Fazio. If interested, JD, you may read the article in it’s entirety at and a few moments of research, about the amount of time you spent writing your message, will net you additional documentation that will verify that wild US horses are not nor ever have been, to use your loose term, “feral”.

      And let’s get a couple of other things straight:

      1.) Don’t have a clue where you get the idea that we are advocating “feeding” the wild horses, in fact, we are against their capture and then the tax payers “feeding” the horses. They do quite well all on their on, as they have for ions, without the interference of man. If you have ever seen horses in the wild you would know that they fare quite well, right down to having rock solid hoofs, as long as humans stay out of the mix.

      2.) Your email and blog address indicate that you right in the middle of an AG misunderstanding. Pro-Horse Advocates ARE AG advocates because all of us who maintained and keep our own horses ARE members of the AG community. I don’t know where the misconception originated that horse people are anti-AG but it just is not so. If nothing else, we are grass farmers at the very least and for the sake of our horses, we better be pretty skilled at growing our crop.

      3.) Thank GOD for the romance of the horse, it might not be “manly” to say it or exhibit it but it is a very cold and lifeless soul that is not moved by the beauty of equine movement or the depth of a horses eye. I have served this country in two armed conflicts with a stint in the medical corps and have seen more than most have. Not only do the horses move me but I am educated enough to realize that the United States of America was built on the back of the horse. If not for the horse we would all live along the East Coast and use boats, exclusively, for transportation. Read up on how the horse shaped the evolution of mankind, it may open your eyes.


    • Jody- Actual experts will debate the wild horse vs feral horse issue forever, just as they do the theory of evolution. Even with evidence actually carved in stone, people will spin history to prove their own theories. That being said, I do allow feral cats to come and go in my “backyard”, they help control mice, etc. in my barn. I live in the Midwest and don’t want the horses here either. I want them in THEIR OWN backyard, be that in Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Washington…. The horses survived on their native ranges for a VERY long time before man tried to exterminate them. Their native ranges are perfectly capable of sustaining them if an over abundance of cattle were not competing for forage. Please so some research, educate yourself and yes join us! We welcome you! -K


  9. RT, we need to print Jody’s comments everywhere we can, especially send them to Salazar and Obama – this is PROOF that the people where the Salazar plan would put our horses DO NOT WANT our wild horses. We should “thank” Jody for making this so very, very clear.

    Thank you RT, for your insightful, as always, reply to her. I must respond to her also:

    Jody, I don’t want our western wild horses in your back yard either – we ask for so little, the whole issue seems rediculous, except to those who are profitting from the roundups. the feeding, the land leases, etc. This is simply fraud against the American taxpayer.

    join us – oppose the Salazar plan,

    join us – promote natural predation, only use chemical birth control as a last resort, at the correct time of year, given without costly roundups,

    join us – stop the roundups, except for truly emergy reasons, join the request for a Moretorium until real investigation has been done based on real science, not bought and paid for by cattle and energy,

    join us – find the George Knapp investigative report “Stampede to Oblivion”,

    join us – support leaving the wild horses alone, return the captive horses to the land that is alrady owned by us, that already is legislated to belong to the wild horses but has been unlawfully taken away from them and from us,

    join us – promote a larger diversified BLM advisory board that will keep the wild horses out of your backyard,

    join us – write to Obama and Salazar to stop this spending madness. The horses cost NOTHING if left alone where they belong.

    join us – against the cattle and energy intersts that are not just taking away the horses, they are taking away OUR PUBLIC LANDS – YOUR public land! Places that you and yours may want to visit one day – but you will be fenced out. It is not being ruined by wild horses, neither is other wildlife suffering due to the wild horses -these are myths to get our tax dollars.

    And, to educate you – in my community we do value feral cats, they control the orange grove rat population that moves in to eat roofs and spread desease.

    How can one compare fenced in horses to feral free running dogs? I agree, I don’t want any free roaming dogs in my neighborhood either.

    And, heaven forbid the Salazar plan does come to fuition – do you oppose all zoos with as much distain. All the Salazar plan does is create ZOOS – YOU MUST hate zoos by taking the position you have – YOU ZOO HATER!

    (actually I have boycotted zoos long ago, but not because I hate the animals, because I love the animals. Maybe the bigger free range type are ok, but they are still fenced in – contained, not running around in anyones neighborhood as Jody puts it)


    • Roxy- I don’t visits zoos either, or rodeos or circuses (which should be criminalized) or any kind of livestock auctions. I don’t even go to county fairs anymore. Its not because I don’t like animals – I don’t like the EXPLOITATION of animals. Which is what will happen to our horses if Salazoo gets his way. The clock is ticking, we need new ideas. I watched Chris Cuomo on Good Morning America today, we need to add him to our lists of people to contact. I am getting charged up again!!


      • kas, I think there are a lot of animal lovers, and almost all TAXPAYERS that go to these events that are not entrenched in the details of them, especially at fairs and zoos. Rodeos and circuses might not welcome this idea:

        What if we could someway organize to set up booths at these events to educate people about the plight of the wild horses and the taxes being eaten up to benefit a select few profiteers?

        I know I sound like a broken record on this, but I cannot figure out how to pull this off. Best Friends Sanctuary already does this through their “Pets are not Products”, we would not even have to create the idea, just copy them – yes more ideas are needed, my idea box is on empty.

        I just follow you all – and write – and every day picture in my mind all the horses back in thier homes.


      • Roxy- There were volunteers for the WH&B adoption program at the 2009 Equine Affair in Columbus, OH. I don’t know how to get a booth at this event, but I know other organizations who do. I thought about approaching the Ohio Horseman’s Council, maybe tag along with them. I also thought about handing out flyers at horse shows, etc. Even if only in parking lots. I’m trying to come up with a single page with as much info as possible. Any input would be welcomed.


      • Does anybody know if we can “borrow” stuff from horse websites? Photo credits, etc would of course be given.


      • kas, Excellent on your post #22. Are permits required to hand out flyers? Or permission from the property/business owner? Perhaps that is state by state, or city by city.

        I have wanted that single page idea also. Perahps R.T. would allow us some space to post our ideas on that, so anyone could take from it what they want. And, yes, we must get permission from other websites as they may be copywritten. I have never had anyone say no.


  10. Way to go Roxy! If only some people would just read a little more, research and see that there is a Solid opposition to BLM/DOI and it does have answers and alternatives and it can save money and lives of our wild ones. mar


  11. Roxy, I agree with you totally except for one thing….

    in my opinion the wild horse advisory board is an absolute joke. There is not one member on that board that actually makes any sense that they should even hold that seat except maybe the vet? They all come from self serving entities, entities that do not enhance wild horses one bit, so what gives them any authority to KNOW what they should be ‘advising’ for wild horses? This committee should be DISBANDED as they serve no purpose other than to propagate lies, fraud, and act as a mouth piece for the BLM! I think it’s time groups of advocates should have their own advisory meetings and send their resolves on issues to the white house.

    Back to the issue of the lawsuit…I hope to God the judge that hears this will THINK about what it is to be humane, and helicopter round ups are NOT under any circumstance, but least of all in the DEAD of winter with sub zero temps and run over rocky terrane covered in snow. The BLM is TRYING TO KILL THEM before they even reach the holding pens, and then upon their arrival after sweating in sub zero temps those that do survive will have to fight for lives once again against illnesses like broncitus and pnuemonia. If you guys think the Jackson and Sheldon rounds up were a fiasco this one has disaster written all over it and it will turn out worse!


    • Kathy M., I agree with you and feel that those people are a joke. There may have been a structure that was wanted at one time, but it was used to keep the horses and burros down and not to develop anything good. Even adoption has failed. It would make sense to have a majority of horse folks and a minority of others on any board. That is the only way to make progress. IF having a board is what we have to contend with. Mar


    • Yes, you are right, what you have described would be ideal. I was commenting on what we have to work with at present.

      I wish we could get our hands on their charter. From their words it sounds like they really don’t have much power, that they only comment and advise to BLM when asked to do so. Maybe we are spending a lot of time on the wrong group, however they do the opposite of what I think they would like to do – they just keep us fired up and more diligent and purposeful than ever befor (I almost want to thank Don Glen for his insulting presentation of our comments).

      Governemnt does run on advisory boards, so that will not go away – but this one is skewed away from the people’s will and congress, and in favor of cattle and energy -no doubt about that.


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