Horse News

Obama’s BLM Can Be Sued for Wild Horse Roundups

Article by Barbara Leonard of the Courthouse News Service

A Dent in BLM Armor brings hope to Nonprofits

Twin Peaks wild horses being stampeded by BLM's Cattoor contractor ~ photo by Terry Fitch

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – A federal judge refused to dismiss wildlife groups’ lawsuit over the federal roundup of more than 1,500 wild horses and burros in northeast California and northwest Nevada.

After the Bureau of Land Management concluded in September 2008 that there was an overpopulation of wild horses and burros in the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area, it proceeded to conduct a roundup under the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

Before the roundup, the bureau estimated that there were about 2,300 wild horses and more than 200 burros living on the Twin Peaks range, which covers 789,852 acres. The agency felt that the population exceeded appropriate management levels by 1,800 horses and 200 burros. If left alone, the bureau felt that the increasingly unsustainable population would seriously degrade the surrounding environment.

Using helicopters, federal agents extracted 1,637 horses and 160 burros from Sept. 19 to 25, 2010. They later returned 58 horses and one burro to the range, and transferred the remainder to corrals. From there, the animals can either be adopted or transferred to long-term pastures on private lands.

In Defense of Animals, Dreamcatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary and three individuals sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management and three officials, alleging violations of the Wild Horse Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act. The groups have been entangled in litigation over the roundup since 2009.

They claim that the government captures and releases animals indiscriminately and pays little attention to demographics, such as age and disability, or familial bands.

Another 180 horses were returned to the Twin Peaks, including mares that had received fertility-control treatment, but 15 died, the Eastern District of California found Wednesday.

The government tried to dismiss the complaint, claiming that the plaintiffs lacked standing and that the claims were moot since the roundup had concluded.

“Defendants argue that Plaintiffs’ claimed injury is merely an alleged personal sadness at the effects of Defendants’ actions,” according to the 30-page ruling. “Plaintiffs claim that they have a legally protected right to view horses on the Twin Peaks range. Defendants maintain that neither of these assertions is a legally protected right that would give rise to a viable claim.”

U.S. District Judge Morrison England disagreed, however. It is enough to survive summary judgment that the plaintiffs claim that they have suffered an injury by losing their ability to watch wild horses and burros on the Twin Peaks, and the defendants have yet to prove that the animals were in excess.

“Were this Court to accept Defendants’ proposition that Plaintiffs have no right to view any ‘excess’ wild horses, no plaintiff would ever have standing to challenge Defendant BLM’s removal of ‘excess’ horses, regardless of how flagrant the violation in making that decision,” England wrote. “Defendants have provided no authority for such a proposition.”

The wildlife activists claim that the roundups would have been far more limited, and fewer animals removed from Twin Peaks in the first place, if the government did not violate the laws in question, which they claim prohibit use of long-term holding facilities.

“This Court need not decide at the motion to dismiss stage whether long-term holding is in fact prohibited under the Wild Horse Act,” England wrote. “Assuming, as this Court must, that Plaintiffs are correct in their allegation that long-term holding is statutorily prohibited, Plaintiffs have established the injury-in-fact and causation elements of standing.”

There is also a viable option for relief, since the government can, as the plaintiffs propose, relocate the horses and burros to public lands in the western United States, as opposed to long-term holding facilities in Oklahoma or Kansas.

Mootness is also not an issue since there remains some question as to whether the government has actually concluded the roundup. Litigation may also enable the plaintiffs to enjoin the government from sterilizing the horses and reach other goals

Click (HERE) to read legal documentation

I attempt to shy away from discussing money and donations in public but I would like to make our readers aware that HfH Advisory Council, Habitat for Horses, the Cloud Foundation, Front Range Equine Rescue, the ASPCA and several private citizens are engaged in a legal wrestling match with the BLM over the above very issue.  Right now the West Douglas herd runs free, for the time being, because of these suits but a concise win would force the entire “roundup” issue to be addressed and you can be a part of that victory.  Please visit us at to learn more about our fight with the BLM and how we are attempting to put a stop to these illegal roundups, once and for all.  Your assistance would be greatly appreciated.” ~ R.T.

18 replies »

  1. It’s not just the “cost” of viewing the horses and burros either. Tack on the @#$%^&* cost of the BLM salaries, the contractors’ fees, and the STH and LTH costs making BLM cronies rich, that I pay with my taxes.

    Tack on the pain, injury and death these individual animals face when they are rounded up, and their family bands are decimated.

    @#$%^&* them for purposely doing it and turning a blind eye!


    • exactly..have you ever looked at one of the BLM field offices and how many employees there are at just one of these field offices?…All your tax dollars at work….


  2. I agree, Rob, and in my opinion all persons involved in the brutal and inappropriate round up of the Mustangs should be prosecuted and held responsible, and I consider that they have committed criminal acts on horses. In my view there were hidden agendas, and everything BLM did was heinous. I also hold Congress and the Administration responsible for doing nothing.

    Also, giving fertility drugs to mares apparently killed some of them, and Stallions died when they were castrated in pens. There is NOTHING good about what BLM and Salazar have done, and they are MUCH to be condemned for their uncivilized and cruel treatment of Mustangs that taxpaying Americans love and that are part of our American heritage. We pay their salaries, and we are never going to accept that they have destroyed horses, tortured them, caused horrendous deaths of foals, mares and stallions, and they should be made to pay, including the helicopter pilots who hit mares with helicopters, and ran foals to death.

    Our judicial system is flawed, and the fact that BLM has been allowed to commit these atrocities says that citizens of this country need to demand justice, this mindless control freak action of BLM has to stop, and we must elect new officials who will rid us of those responsible for this outrage.


  3. We need to be rid of this current ‘program’ within BLM and have a Wild Horse and Burro Agency that stands on its own. BLM has failed and our government has closed out the public who were to be central to the administration of accessible and humane management of our wild herds. None of what has gone on for these decades was what was intended and we were simply left out of the process so that BLM and Ranchers could go on treating the wild ones as they have historically; like a resource to plunder when they need some money under the table. Mustanging continued right under our noses, Time to fulfill Wild Horse Annie’s and our own vision of protection and preservation.


    • agree with you 100 0/0………………In respect of common decency the Round ups were absolutely totally unnecessary….In light of that fact the BLM is guilty of wasting American taxpayers money, Causing undue harm , castration, maining and the untimely deaths of countless innocent American Wild Mustangs , they should be dismantle and many of the BLM Jailed, and Bob Abbey impeached. along with Salazar…………………………… The BLM committed these crimes against the Wild Mustangs , the American People Ecolodgical System……….Therefore they all must be tried and covicted of of these henneous criminal Acts………………………..along with the Catoors, and Sun J………………….


  4. The BLM estimated that there were 200 burros living in the Twin Peaks area? They estimated that they exceeded the appropriate management levels by 200 burros. Wow. If that’s not a blatant disregard for the law and an extermination policy, I don’t know what is. This is not management, this is 100% eradication of a protected animal that now is under 2000 in the entire WEST. Please be sure the judge knows about 100% removal of burros and 80% removal of horses. Management would have removals of around 15-20% during a round up to keep numbers levels. This is not management and protection. This is culling for extinction of the wild horses and burros. The American people did not pass a law granting them this right.


    • Dear savewildhorses.The BLM since the very start werent interested in how many mustangs were on the range, it all been sham………a greed thing all the way !!!!The BLM has done nothing right for the Mustangs,ever……………..Why in heck are they being allowed to continue uninterupted??????????????????by any CHARGES that stick ??????????????


  5. How BLM has gotten away with their lame position of ‘The deed is done, so the suit is moot’ absolutely baffles me! I’m fairly sure that if I robbed a bank and then was caught, a legal position of “They didn’t catch me until I’d finished robbing the bank.” wouldn’t hold much water in any legitimate court. And it’s pretty likely that, ” I’m sorry for speeding, officer, but since you didn’t actually walk up to my car until I’d pulled over and stopped, you can’t give me a ticket.” wouldn’t get me off with a “Oh, you’re right, ma’am. Never mind.”

    Every single one of us needs to chip in a few dollars to help fund this progressing suit, offer any other assistance we can to the plaintiff, and cross our fingers TIGHTLY! This could be the one that turns the tide and drowns the rats.


  6. Here is a “lawsuit” that actually might bring “JUSTICE”….or say the least opens a door for “JUSTICE” Great job!!! The only problem is that there isn’t a way to put a TRO on the sterilization and dispersal of the Twin Peak horses! They are already scatered all over in the USA…..SHAME!


  7. It’s about time the horses get some justice. The judge must be one of the few honest people left in the judicial system or not in the cattle ranchers wallets. I pray this is the beginning of a lot of law suits! BLM, DOI etc…


  8. Proof of the crimes the BLM commits at every roundup is the very fact that they hide their activities from public view, using force to remove anyone with cameras. The fact that they hide behind smokescreens while they do their criminal and torturous roundups, and try to screen the atrocities that go on in the holding pens after capture is indeed a sure sign that they know they are guilty of inhumane acts against horses and burros.


  9. Holy moly that brief is the best news of the day! Hoofray to the lawyers and all who helped to prepare the brief!


  10. Hooray! Finally, we have an honest judge. I wish I had the funds and I would give and give to continue the fight for the wild horses and burros until: all the BLM and their helicopter croonies are living in jail for the balance of their lives, and being put out during the day to “muck” horse corrals. And, all the horses in corrals all over the country, if we could substantuate where they came from, would be returned to their home ranges so all equine families are reunited. Then, all the cattlemen would be send invoices for the real costs that they should have paid for their cattle on the ranges, along with a demand to remove all cattle at once. If they didn’ t payup, all cattle and ranches would be taken legally and sold, these funds would be used to obtain hay for the horses during the winter time. The only time helicopters would be used would be to drop hay to the horses during the winter time to supplement their food. Hopefully, these animals would “forgive” us for our sins of killing members of their families, and causing them great harm and anxiety. Then, areas could be set up for the American public to see our horses and burros by means of a means of transportation and hopefully for people to get a good look at these beautiful and graceful “gifts” of God. Oh, how I wish I could do this by paying the legal fees until we win. DOES ANYONE WITH THE MEANS WHAT TO DO IT? Think of how many people would love you for saving these beautiful animals. But, this may be the beginning of the downfall of this deplorable agency and all its cohorts. Let’s pray this is the beginning to a year when finally our wild horses will win and we can enjoy with them as we see them returned to their ranges and families. If we all pray for this, maybe it will come to pass.


    • Dear Lynne, What a perfect dream , i also dream of that for the Mustangs, iT NEEDS TO BE A REALITY FOR SURE !!!!!!!!!!! I want nothing less then that for Them………………………………………… This Judge Morrison Emond Jr……can force and has the power to make the BLM return them to the Range, I hoping that he has the insight and the Heart to make it so………………..


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