Press Release from The Equine Welfare Alliance
Half of All California Wild Horses to Be Captured In Coming Weeks
San Francisco, Calif
. (August 10, 2010) – Today, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion to stop the roundup of half of all California wild horses, plaintiffs in the lawsuit are joining more than 54 members of Congress who are calling on the Obama Administration to halt the government roundup. Over 2,000 wild horses and 200 burros will be removed from the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area in northeastern California by helicopter stampede scheduled to begin on Wednesday, August 11, 2010.
Last week 54 members of Congress sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar demanding a halt to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wild horse roundups and recommending reform of “what seems to be a deeply flawed policy. . .” Representatives Barbara Lee, George Miller, Lynn Woolsey, and Mike Honda are among the members of the California Congressional delegation who signed the letter on July 30, expressing concern over the BLM’s recent helicopter roundup of 1,224 Nevada mustangs, which caused the deaths of 34 of these iconic animals, including at least eight foals.
The Twin Peaks roundup will be conducted in the heat of summer and will unnecessarily subject many old, sick, lame and vulnerable young wild horses to potential injury and death. The BLM’s current policy of mass roundups, removals and stockpiling of horses has created what Interior Secretary Salazar has called an “unsustainable” situation whereby the agency is spending tens of millions of dollars annually to stockpile more than 38,000 wild horses.
The lawsuit was filed July 16 on behalf of ecologist Dr. Chad Hanson, a researcher at the University of California at Davis and author of numerous scientific studies; Barbara Clarke, wild horse expert and director of 2,000-acre DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in Northeastern California; Linda Hay, a local resident who has visited and enjoyed the Twin Peaks horses for the past thirty years; and In Defense of Animals, a Bay Area-based animal protection organization.
Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, with offices in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, New York and Washington D.C., is joined as counsel in the lawsuit by the national law firm of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and San Francisco Bay Area-based environmental attorney Rachel Fazio.
“The President must step in if this roundup is to be stopped. The Interior Department continues to disproportionately allocate public resources in order to serve the private livestock and other commercial industries and in turn scapegoats wild horses and burros deeming them overpopulated,” said Stuart G. Gross, of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy. “In Twin Peaks, the Department authorizes four to seven times more privately-owned sheep and cattle than wild horses and burros to graze on Twin Peak’s nearly 800,000-acres – which is federally protected to serve as horse and burro areas.
“Under the Obama Administration for the first time in history, there are now more wild horses in government holding facilities than are left on the Western range. The vast majority of the captured Twin Peaks horses will join the 38,000 mustangs already stockpiled in zoo-like conditions,” said William J. Spriggs of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney. “This scheme is not only fiscally unsustainable, it is also blatantly illegal.”
“The Department of Interior has a policy of removing mass numbers of wild horses from the range without fulfilling its obligation to establish the need for the action,” said environmental attorney Rachel Fazio.
Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Currently the BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public lands of which cattle grazing is allowed on 160 million acres; wild horses are only allowed on 26.6 million acres of this land, which must be shared with cattle. The Obama Administration has accelerated the removal of wild horses and burros from public lands in the past year.