Horse News

Judge Rules in Favor of Pryor Mountain Wild Horses

CLAIR JOHNSON For the Independent Record

“By operating with an outdated AML when it made its 2015 decision, BLM’s excess animal determination was based, at least in part, on pure guesswork,”

A federal judge in Billings MT has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management used outdated information when it decided to remove wild horses last year as part of a population management plan at the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

Pryor Mountain Stallions ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Pryor Mountain Stallions ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

U.S. District Judge Susan Watters in a July 29 ruling said BLM’s reliance on the outdated management plan in making a decision that the range had excess horses that needed removal was “arbitrary and capricious.” Her order set aside the agency’s decision.

Watters’ ruling favored the Friends of Animals, a Connecticut-based advocacy group. The organization sued BLM last year after the agency said it would gather and permanently remove 20 young wild horses and continue removing six to 12 wild horses annually.

“We are thrilled the court didn’t let the BLM get away (with) violating the law,” said Jennifer Best, associate director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program.

Watters’ ruling, Best said, recognizes “that BLM was removing wild horses from the Pryor Mountains before considering a reasonable alternative — determining what the appropriate population for the area is and whether the range could potentially support more wild horses.”

The judge’s order also found that BLM could “not ignore its promise to the public to do a more thorough analysis of the Appropriate Management Level before removing wild horses,” Best continued.

An AML, as defined by the agency, is the number of horses that can be sustained within a designated herd management area that maintains “a thriving natural ecological balance in keeping with the multiple-use management concept for the area.”

“I hope this decision sends a signal to the BLM that it cannot get away with ignoring its commitments and duties to protect these amazing wild animals, who are actually underpopulated,” Best said.

FoA alleged BLM violated federal laws by basing its 2015 Pryor Mountain horse removal decision on an outdated 2009 Herd Management Area Plan that established an appropriate management horse population of 90 to 120 wild horses. The appropriate management number, the group said, was based on a 2007 range evaluation, which the BLM was supposed to recalculate within five years.

BLM admitted it has not re-calculated the appropriate management level number since its 2009 decision.

Alyse Backus, a spokeswoman for the BLM, said on Wednesday a judgment had not yet been issued in the case and that BLM could not comment on pending litigation.

Backus said the 2015 horse removal did occur. The judge earlier denied FoA’s request for a preliminary injunction.

Watters’ ruling noted that BLM had stated in its 2009 decision that it would recalculate the appropriate management level within five years. “The Court finds that federal regulations, case law and its own representations to the public bind BLM to this commitment,” she said.

“By operating with an outdated AML when it made its 2015 decision, BLM’s excess animal determination was based, at least in part, on pure guesswork,” the judge wrote.

The Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range consists of more than 38,000 acres of desert, forest and high mountain meadows. There are no livestock grazing leases on the range, which was established in 1968 for exclusive use by wild horses and other wildlife. The herd is believed to be descended from horse used by Spanish conquistadors.

17 replies »

  1. Well its about time these poor horses gota break. Now where are they? Do the idiots even know? As a judge I would demand accountability. If found could they be released back into the Wilwith the rest of the herd?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Unfortunately, the Pryor Mountain Mustangs rounded up last year were all adopted out. However, they are in the care of kindhearted individuals who will most likely try their very best to give them the second best thing to living in the wild. But at least the judge’s ruling may influence the BLM in the Pryor Mountains (and possibly throughout the board) to make sure that their AML’s are truly appropriate and not engage in roundups unless they are absolutely necessary from here on out.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for helping the horse’s stay & free. The BLM is out of control, they only interested in making money off the cattle men. They need to be stopped.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Craig Dower said there are cattle there and he has seen them. I suppose they are trespassing.
    The fence to the Carter National Forest must come down.
    AML is not even sustainable

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Exactly who is going to “make” sure the BLM’s AMLs are correct when there should be no AMLs necessary! It is nice tho to have a judge stick up for the horses – altho I’m sure its just a matter of legality.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Just a few thoughts…………..
    The horses’ locations are known and therefore returning them to their legal land is not moot. If a child is taken from its home and then the law says the child has a legal right to live in its original home … are the children then just left wherever they ended up while the legal actions were going through their steps? Is the thought then, “oh well … the child is already gone now so no reason to return it to its rightful home”? Of course not.
    Since the judge has ruled the capture illegal then the BLM had no legal right (and never does in my mind) to adopt out or sell those wild horses from the roundup. As an adopter of three wild horses, I can tell you from the bottom of my heart that although they are now in a safe place, I would return them to their original and rightful home (Twin Peaks) in the blink of an eye if it was possible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree 100%, it is a failure and wishy washy to accept and justify the outcomes, which are only wonderful if you keep your head in a “disney” view of what happens to those removed-I know differently..and I want to know why-it was FOA who made this extraordinary effort and not cloud foundation or the Pryor mountain group-shame on them for posing as protectors of the pryors mountain mustangs


  6. Reblogged this on Wild in the Pryors and commented:
    I had not heard of this and finally glad that someone has begun to use a judge in Montana who knows who these horses are, instead of a judge in Washington DC, who could care less. However, I do want to add that the BLM in Montana has been fair and humane with these horses during their removals, and 2015 was no exception to this. This office is willing to listen and answer questions, and when I need assistance while on the mountain, they are fast to respond to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. A little bit of good news lately – judges challenging these special interest fronts that call themselves stewards of the public lands.


  8. I can’t believe a judge in Montana of all places is actually on the side of the wild horses. I hope there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This might slow the BLM up from all of their roundups. I actually think its illegal to not tell the public where they have put the 50,000 horses they have rounded up claiming privacy for the ranches where they are supposed to be. I think a judge should order the BLM to disclose the whereabouts of the horses since they have been caught several times since the 90’s selling them to kill buyers I’d like to just see if they can produce the horses since we the people happen to own them and are footing the bills along with paying the BLM crooks salaries.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Video of our BLM protest to protect Pryor Mountain wild horses

    Friends of Animals knows that if the public was aware that the BLM in Billings, Montana, was poised to wipe out the last of Montana’s wild horses–The Pryor Mountain Herd that includes Cloud the stallion made famous by the Cloud Foundation–they would be just as disgusted as we are. When we visited the Pryor Mountain Range, we only saw 5 horses in 6 ½ hours. So please share the video of FoA confronting the Billings Field Office, letting staff members know we will continue to challenge their wild horse extinction plan–which includes roundups and the fertility control pesticide PZP-from many fronts. A new movement to protect America’s wild horses is underway. We won’t stand by while the BLM takes the wild out of our wilderness.


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