Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Them Out of Court

By JONNY BONNER as published in the Courthouse News Service

 “The BLM is engaging in a concerted breeding effort and manipulating the genetic makeup of the herds, creating a zoolike atmosphere, in direct violation of and conflict with the spirit and nature of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act,”

Original Photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Original Photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

PORTLAND, Ore. (CN) – A federal breeding program for wild horses whose ancestors “helped settle the West” will reduce herds’ genetic health and create a “zoo-like atmosphere,” horse-lovers claim in Federal Court.     Front Range Equine Rescue sued the Bureau of Land Management and the Interior Board of Land Appeals on Wednesday, in Federal Court, in a new twist in long-running legal battles over the management of the West’s wild horses.

In May 2014 the BLM sought to “artificially” create a mustang breeding pool in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herd management areas, about 50 miles south of Burns, Ore., Front Range says in the complaint.

The Kiger herd area spans 62,992 acres in eastern Oregon, and its herd typically ranges from 51 to 82 wild horses. The Riddle Mountain herd has 33 to 56 wild horses.

In July and August 2015, Front Range says, the BLM rounded up all the wild and free-roaming horses in the areas.
It permanently removed 156 “excess” wild horses, and returned only horses fitting the characteristics of the Kiger mustang strain, which “represent a particular type or breed of mustang with a particular genetic makeup.”

The BLM says the Kiger and Riddle Mountain herds mirror characteristics of the original Spanish mustang, which “was a part of early American history, having roots in Native American history, and is the horse that helped settle the West .”

Front Range appealed to the Interior Board of Land Appeals in June 2015, claiming the BLM violated the Wild Horse Act, which was meant to “deter the possibility of ‘zoo-like’ developments.”

The Wild Horse Act was written to “extend federal protection to wild horses and empower BLM to manage horses roaming public lands as part of the agency’s management of the public lands.” The BLM was charged with the “protection, management, and control of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands,” Front Range says.

It adds that Kiger horses are “highly coveted” by private citizens, as shown by their 100 percent adoption rate since 1986.

“By intentionally reducing the diversity of wild horses in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain HMAs [herd management areas] to only those horses with Kiger characteristics, and then conducting gathers every four years to further empty the gene pool and round up these valuable Kiger horses to sell them for adoption, BLM has effectively created a breeding facility that injures the natural herds’ survival possibilities and benefits only BLM and private actors desirous of purchasing this ‘breed,'” the lawsuit states.

After months of litigation, the Interior Board of Land Appeals held on Jan. 13 that Front Range lacked standing to challenge the BLM’s actions.

The appeals board ruled that Front Range was not “adversely affected” by the roundup and removal of wild horses in Kiger and Riddle Mountain. The appeals board added that Front Range’s “only injury” was the cost of the lawsuit.

Front Range called that ruling arbitrary and capricious, and a violation of the Administrative Procedure Act.

Despite numerous statements from Hilary Wood, Front Range’s founder and president, “demonstrating the various ways in which FRER [Front Range] has expended its limited resources directly because of BLM’s actions in the Kiger and Riddle Mountain HMAs, the IBLA opinion concluded that FRER’s only injury is the expenditure of resources on the instant lawsuit,” the complaint states.

Front Range’s attorney Bruce Wagman said Thursday that the breeding effort is “creating a zoolike atmosphere.”
“The BLM is engaging in a concerted breeding effort and manipulating the genetic makeup of the herds, creating a zoolike atmosphere, in direct violation of and conflict with the spirit and nature of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act,” Wagman told Courthouse News.

The BLM did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday.

Front Range Equine Rescue, a nonprofit launched in Colorado in 1997, works to prevent the abuse and neglect of horses through rescue and education.

It operates solely on donations.

It seeks an order setting aside, reversing and remanding the land appeals board’s opinion.
Wagman, with Schiff Harding of San Francisco, represents Front Range pro hac vice.

Its lead counsel is Melissa Healy with Stoel Rives. 

16 comments on “Wild Horses Couldn’t Keep Them Out of Court

  1. Many – most — Americans are “adversely affected” by the loss of truly wild horses. “Standing” in court is something I probably should learn more about. I’m just an English teacher & writer, but it seems standing is widely interpreted.

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    • FRER has standing… this is just an administrative (aka BLM bureaucrats) ruling. The standing needs to be determined by federal court, not by a bunch of sellout bureaucrats.

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  2. Is any one surprised??? No one cares about the genetics on these horses and how they got established. If they did they would understand. Let nature take its course and let strongest survive. What does, both the BLM and the judicial system in that area!! Thanks to illustrious law makers the Wild Horses and Burros are in this quandry. And it certainly sucks!! All the money spent in court could have been better spent with their care!!

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  3. Honestly, we dont need any more manipulated breeding programs – there are more than enough in the domestic horse breeds. These horses are wild & free-roaming – not every characteristic the BLM wants will help these horses have a free natural life!

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  4. The writing on the wall is They Intended to dilute bloodlines to say not legitimate wild horses. Duquette frequents the BLM. Proslaughters precedes the decline in lines and then culled all the colorful horses to degrade color patterns and natural selection to get people to lose interest. The genetics manufacturers in AQHA implemented the idea to dilute…degrade and destroy wild horses. Theres no question when pro slaughter lingers at the BLM in every way having a clear presence that the changes in bloodlines and erradication mode has been aligned for many years. Playing stupid has been plausible deniability for decades and avoids legal responsibility in modifying these horses into exstinction right under YOUR watchful yet not as close as horse slaughters eyes. They play dumb on the fact they housed/stockpile specific herds that will detract from the rare and sought after interests of private adopters and scapegoat the horses outside the wild horse and burro act. These tricks of dangling carrots while your looking at it they rip the hind end out of any Federal program has existed for Centuries. The Wild Horse and Burro program has been clearly victimized and utterly destroyed by it. The clever removal of horses to slaughter while they do not give accurate numbers and keeping pro horse slaughter close if not Inside while your locked out gives me the feeling the floating numbers were to distract w a carrot while more horses vanished. The count is Never accurate or the same with so much haste and dead horses in each roundup why the irrational hurry? Why are the horses pure lines being modified by people who dobt know the lineage? Because its a medial move it allows them to not just deny but to actually claim it Never was so….in other words all horses are feral but the handful that were slaughtered or adopted. Have you Ever wondered invthe middle of the economic collapse where did all the Horses go. Reality states that they really only had a slight and brief couple of year upswing. Had there been so much of an issue shouldnt instead on 175,000 going to slaughter would it not have been more? And why did 1700 horses account into the upswing? The economic downturn literally did NOT affect the wild horses at all. Consider that. The fact no one adopted for a bit did not affect the programs ability to house and feed the horses. I really think we need to look closer at why they spend so Much money on the horses…..I mean fleecing America really isnt that hard…..Remember 12,000 hammers the Airforce bought? Whats really happened may not be horse related at all.

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  5. Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward”
    – National Academy of Sciences

    This report reviews the science that underpins the Bureau of Land Management’s oversight of free-ranging horses and burros on federal public lands in the western United States. The social impacts on the American public of destroying these Wild Horse Herd populations is overwhelmingly given the strong support the American public has to protect, preserve and view Wild Horses living naturally on protected public lands.

    http://dels.nas.edu/resources/static-assets/materials-based-on-reports/reports-in-brief/wild-horses-report-brief-final.pdf

    “Using Science to Improve the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program: A Way Forward”
    – National Academy of Science
    This report reviews the science that underpins the Bureau of Land Management’s oversight of free-ranging horses and burros on federal public lands in the western United States. The social impacts on the American public of destroying these Wild Horse Herd populations is overwhelmingly given the strong support the American public has to protect, preserve and view Wild Horses living naturally on protected public lands.

    Horse and burro management and control strategies cannot be based on biological or cost considerations alone; management should engage interested and affected parties and also be responsive to public attitudes and preferences. Three decades ago, the National Research Council reported that public opinion was the major reason that the Wild Horse and Burro Program existed and public opinion was a primary indicator of management success (NRC, 1982)

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  6. This is certainly not the only issue to consider, but we who care about the wild horse and burro issue, and the equine slaughter issue will need to think very hard before voting in the next election. Not a single Republican candidate (Disclaimer: I’m a Republican.) has a good voting record on animal related issues, and those with no record at all- like Trump and Carson, are holding their thoughts on this subject very close to the vest. Rumor has it that Trump’s only horse-related comment has been that the Fort Polk horses would have been taken out a long time ago if it had been a Naval base. Also, when a staffer in his office was asked about Trump’s stance on animal welfare, the staffer asked if the caller was with PETA, and said that Trump has made no statements about animals and wasn’t likely to. All of my own letters to his office and campaign have gone unanswered. The Democratic candidates have better records re animal-related issues, but they also have other priorities- like energy, that may result in their doing no more for America’s at-risk equines than Obama has. Remember how hopeful we were about his promises re equine issues? We’re seven years in and very little- if anything, has changed. The point is that we have a pretty good idea what many of the candidates will [not] do to help us. If these horses are to have a fighting chance over the next four- or eight, years, we’d better come up with a plan and a candidate who will work with us on this issue, and then we each need to put political prejudices aside and be very thoughtful while we’re in that voting booth. As bad as things are for America’s at-risk equines right now, they could get a lot worse very quickly if their fate falls into uncaring hands yet again.

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    • I tend to agree with the assessment… but having a outside view of what’s going on in America I can assure that putting Trump, or worse yet, Cruz at the helm is like putting Goodlatte or Stenholm. Nothing good will come out of these two guys… at least that’s what Europe thinks.

      Personally, I don’t think Trump will do anything for the horses… actually he’ll probably speed up their removal to make room for “money-producing” developments.

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  7. We might need to broaden the issue to our Public Lands and Wildlife and see how the candidates stack up on that. That IS a big topic right now. Check and see which of them are willing to vote in favor of the Trans Pacific Partnership, as that international trade agreement would give control of 544 MILLION ACRES of Public Land (a quarter of the entire U.S. land area) to international authorities.
    Check to see which of them voted to fast track it.
    http://www.rosieontheright.com

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