Horse News

Judge Criticizes BLM Stance on Wild Horse Evidence


“The agency is NOT interested in science”

An American court has rejected a decision of the US Bureau of Land Management to ignore submitted scientific evidence in its decision-making process over plans to castrate wild stallions.

At issue were expert declarations submitted to the bureau from experts in wild horse behavior and biology outlining the impacts castration would have on the health and natural behaviors of wild free-roaming stallions and wild horse herds.

The ruling in the US District Court for the District of Columbia resulted from action filed in December last year by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), the Western Watersheds Project and the Cloud Foundation challenging the bureau’s plan to castrate stallions in eastern Nevada’s Pancake Complex, as well as to eliminate wild horses from the Jake’s Wash Herd Management Area, within the complex.

The AWHPC says the ruling will have widespread implications for thousands of the remaining wild horses living free and wild on public lands.

US District Judge Beryl Howell said in her 23-page opinion that 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”.

She rejected the bureau’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 in future rulings in the case.

AWHPC director Suzanne Roy said: “The BLM went to great lengths to avoid considering scientific information provided by leading wild horse experts.

“The agency is not interested in science. The BLM’s only interest is clearing our public lands of wild horses to make room for livestock grazing and other commercial interests.”

Cloud Foundation executive director Ginger Kathrens said: “This is yet another example of the agency’s epidemic refusal to incorporate science in its management of wild horse and burros herds.”

She said the founation commended the judge for “standing up for science and the right of the public to have input into government management decisions”.

Among the scientific evidence submitted by the plaintiffs but not considered by the bureau was a declaration from Dr Jay Kirkpatrick, the director of science and conservation biology at Zoo Montana and a foremost authority on wildlife reproductive biology.

Kirkpatrick 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 herd management areas … 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 herd management areas and whose professional and aesthetic interests will be harmed if the bureau moves forward with its castration plan.

The complaint alleges that the bureau’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 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 bureau to withdraw a similar plan to release hundreds of castrated wild stallions in two herd areas in Wyoming.

The four affidavits in question had been filed by the plaintiffs over the Wyoming castration plan, ultimately cancelled by the bureau.

However, it was resurrected little more than a month later on the Pancake Complex and the plaintiffs intended to rely on the same four affadavits, which it accidentally failed to attach to its comments.

It soon realised its mistake, and emailed them in, but apparently not in time.

The bureau argued they could not be considered as they were too late to be part of the official record, but the judge ruled this was not sufficient grounds to reject the material, which, in any case, the bureau had received only months before in relation to the Wyoming castration plans.

The judge ruled that the bureau could not remain “studiously ignorant” of submitted scientific evidence under such circumstances.

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12 replies »

  1. So glad the wild horses finally have judge on their side. Lets hope the BLM gets the message and stops their dirty tricks and do their job and protect the wild horses. Next step is getting the pro-slaughter horse killers off the wild horse board.


  2. The agency is not interested in science. Then that agency should be relieved of its duties–because horse and land management are science. We the people… entrusted our money to that agency to properly, and scientifically manage the public lands and the wildlife on it–so that the land and the animals would be there for future generations–forever. BLM has ignored everything–science,the taxpayers,the advocates,veterinary professors,biologists… for money. Thank you, Judge Howell. Perhaps it is time for Lady Justice to remove her blindfold and see the greed and arrogance tilting the scales.


    • I could not agree more. This is not 1930, and if we continue to manage our natural resources without using even basic middle school science, then this agency has outlived it’s usefulness and needs to be dissolved. There is considerable evidence that this agency has deliberately mismanaged our wild horses for personal gain. I wonder how many wild horses were culled for horse meat during these gathers where citizens were denied access and those held on private lands. Our wild horses were probably culled and put in feed lots out of the protective and watchful gaze of the public.

      Can’t believe Secretary Salazar put someone on the board who would make a comment about how he couldn’t understand why there was so much emphasis on genetic viability. Shouldn’t there be a minimum educational level or something. Watching some of the board and listening to their comments would make one believe the Secretary just picked them off the street corners in Colorado and Nevada. That is until you realize that nothing this group does occurs without cunning calculation.


  3. Glad to see this story get international coverage.

    I wouldn’t start doing cart wheels just yet and I presume the judge will be issuing something more than a “criticism” of the chronic misuse and outright lack of science DOI/USDA has institutionalized.

    Isn’t it odd how they (DOI/USDA) continually sterilize herds and destroy their herd band system, when in actuality it is the most efficient and regulatory population control system with the least amount of monies required? Bizarre and stupid behavior.


  4. It is thrilling any time our Judicial system does the right thing and judges are not influenced inappropriately by ranchers or cattlemen in reaching a decision. Plaudits to US District Judge
    Beryl Howell!

    We have all suffered so long and so endlessly due to the cruelty perpetrated on our American Mustangs by the Bureau of Land Management. We grieved that BLM has caused the deaths of mares, foals and stallions through their outrageous and insane stampeding and penning of these wonderful horses. Their criminally inappropriate sterilization of mares and castrating of stallions has caused deaths of innocent horses.

    Please tell me if the replacement of the present director, who has stepped down, will improve the behavior of BLM which has transpirred under his leadership. Also, please clarify for me the number of horses being transported to the beautiful acreage provided by Madelaine Pickens
    and WHEN this will happen. This has been another fiasco by BLM in their bull-headed refusal to let horses be where they are happy and safe instead of in their crowded and heinous pens.


    • Sorry, transpired, not transpirred, under his leadership. Working too fast. But, I am sure you knew it was a typo.


    Please Don’t Let the BLM Use Drought as a Blanket Excuse to Remove Wild Horses from the Range in Nevada
    Comments must be received by May 16, 2012.
    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Battle Mountain District Office is known as “the heart of wild horse country,” managing more Herd Management Areas (HMAs) — 28 — than any other BLM district. Wild horse and burro habitat under Battle Mountain’s jurisdiction spans more than 3 million acres
    Tell BLM: No Destructive Mining Projects in Wild Horse Habitat
    Oppose Two Massive Water-Guzzling and Polluting Mining Projects In Wild Horse Areas

    Bald Mountain Mine, Nevada — Destructive and Water-Guzzling
    Comments must be received by May 16, 2012.
    The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) routinely cites scarcity of water as a major reason for removing wild horses and burros from the range. Yet, the agency is now poised to approve two massive water-guzzling mining operations located in wild horse areas where over 1,000 wild horses were recently rounded up and removed.


  6. The BLM is behaving with the Wild Horses in the same way, as the Nazis were behaving with the Jews in world War Two. SHAME —SHAME—SHAME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The BLM. has no Respect for ANYTHING. Not for LIVES, not for the Earth, There Evel has to be stopped . I am applauding Judge” Beryl Howell”,


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