Horse News

Another Big Landmark Win for Wyoming’s Wild Horses! Checkerboard Ruling Overturned by Federal Appeals Court

Source: Carol Walker as published on WildHoofBeats

Landmark Appellate Court Decision Stops BLM Wyoming Wild Horse Wipeout

Ruling Blocks Agency from Treating Over 1 Million Acres of Public Lands as Private Lands in Pursuit of Wild Horse Roundups

Denver, CO (October 14, 2016) . . . The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit today issued a landmark decision that stops the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from wiping out wild horses from over one million acres of public land in the Wyoming Checkerboard. The ruling holds that BLM violated two federal laws in its conduct of a 2014 wild horse roundup that removed over 1,263 wild horses from the area, and means that the agency’s plan to round up 500 more horses from the Checkerboard beginning on October 18 is also illegal. Plaintiffs American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, photographers Carol Walker, Director of Field Documentation for Wild Horse Freedom Federation, and Kimerlee Curyl and their attorney, Bill Eubanks of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Eubanks, are hailing the decision and its precedential implications for wild horse management throughout the western United States.

“This ruling throws a wrench into the backroom deal between the BLM and livestock grazing interests to eliminate federally protected wild horses from over one million acres of public land in Wyoming,” Eubanks said. “With this landmark decision, the Tenth Circuit has permanently stopped the BLM from treating public lands as private and eliminating wild horses from public lands based on a request from private landowners. This sets a major legal precedent across the West and protects wild horses from ranchers who want to eliminate these iconic animals from our public lands in order to put even more domestic cattle and sheep on these public lands to the detriment of the ecosystem.”

In its ruling issued today, the Tenth Circuit held that “the BLM violated both the [Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros] Act and FLPMA [Federal Land Policy Management Act] in carrying out the 2014 removal of wild horses from the Checkerboard.” The appellate court reversed the 2015 lower court ruling upholding BLM’s actions in the 2014 Checkerboard wild horse roundup.

Today’s decision is a closing chapter in an ongoing legal battle over the BLM’s plan to eradicate wild horses from a two million acre area of public and private land at the request of the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA). The RSGA owns or leases the private land blocks in the Checkerboard and views wild horses as competition for taxpayer subsidized livestock grazing on the public lands in the area.

Last week, the plaintiffs filed another lawsuit to block the agency from proceeding with the next Checkerboard roundup, set to begin on October 18.

This is the third major legal victory for the groups in just over a month. Earlier this week,the Tenth Circuit threw out a lawsuit by the State of Wyoming to compel the BLM to remove hundreds of wild horses from non-checkerboard public lands in that state. In a precedential ruling, the Tenth Circuit held that the BLM is not required to remove wild horses from public lands just because their populations exceed outdated population limits.

26 replies »

  1. This is GREAT news!!!
    Next is to get all those horses that were illegally captured from the Checkerboard herd areas and put them BACK on their legal land.
    BLM keeps records of the status (current location etc) of those horses and although stallions have been gelded and most have been transported to BLM feedlots … they can and SHOULD ALL be returned to their legal land.
    (Not counting the ones that truly do have a good adoption home, of course).
    PS and let the rock springs grazing association pay for the horses to be RETURNED.

    Liked by 3 people


      Day 24 Checkerboard Roundup, Trap at EVERSOLE RANCH

      By Carol Walker Today · · Taken at Adobe Town, Wyoming

      Blog post about this last day:

      Posted by Carol Walker on Sunday, October 12, 2014

      This really should be the last day of the Checkerboard Roundup in Salt Wells Creek as they use the trap site at Eversole Ranch for one more day to get the very last 30-40 horses because of Rock Springs Grazing Association ranchers’ demands for wild horse removal.

      Yesterday one foal died as he was being sorted, bringing the death count to 15, and the horses captured to 1219:


      • Okay so 15 horses illegally killed, at a fine of $100,000 per animal, comes to $1,500,000 the public should be billing the RSGA, plus refunding the million or so the illegal roundups cost, plus the related court fees. Those funds can be put toward returning horses to their legal areas and respectfully managing them on the range.

        RSGA may have to sell of some sheep to pay their debts to the American public. They should not be allowed to walk away from 35 years or so of attempting to thwart federal laws. In addition, the BLM has the right and (in my opinion) an obligation to revoke grazing permits granted to RSGA on the million or so acres in the Checkerboard since those sheep freely wander from private to public lands without their owners fencing them onto their own lands, as is the law.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Jane, this was no miracle but the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of folks! I can’t appreciate them enough for restoring a bit of faith in our legal system.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Great news, but sad it takes this much effort to uphold our laws against tyrants. I agree the court costs and costs of capturing and holding these horses (illegally) should be billed to the RSGA. This folly has needlessly cost US taxpayers millions of dollars and cost horses their lives and families. If the fine for killing one wild horse is $100,000 (as I have seen published elsewhere) then at a minimum this level of fine should be imposed for those killed during the roundups and in holding. I recall especially the old bay stud who was run in alone by helicopter who had an old injury to his knee and was nearly crippled, yet they galloped him in anyways and then shot him to claim he was rounded up.

    What is not clear about public land belonging to the public, and protected horse areas being protected against privateers?

    It is also very clear the grazing permits granted to the RSGA are a privilege, not a right, and the BLM has always had the authority to revoke them. Why they haven’t but instead bowed to the RSGA against the public interest is an open question. Their first and highest obligation is to the public, not twenty or so members of an exclusive, private, for-profit corporation operating on public lands.

    Let us hope this sets a precedent for following our laws and punishing those who don’t.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. comment of the day, from BLM logical solutions, Susan Humphreys….wild horses should not be allowed to breed period they are competing with breeders of domestic horses and that should not be allowed..geeze why didn’t I think of that…deer elk moose antelope and all them wild critters are competing with beef for the dinner table and of course wild horses too if they can change the lets spay and neuter all wildlife

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sandra, in what way do wild horses compete with domestic horses for anything? Even if all our wild horses were slaughtered at once and gone forever it would barely dent the amount of domestic horses being bred and thrown away into the slaughter pipeline EVERY YEAR.

      I also don’t see any competition from breeders screaming to graze their domestic horses on public lands under BLM rules.

      Since adoptions are only a few thousand animals each year, that also is no competition for the well-paid professionals like Susan H. (she indicated elsewhere she works as a horse pro in SD and is secure enough to keep her own horses as well as take time off to volunteer to go “help” on the grounds at ISPMB).

      Do you have a link to her curious comments?


  4. It is about time some one sees what is going on with the wild horses and the extra spending and the heart ship these animals have had to go through. We can’t stop now, have to push ahead.


  5. BLM and ranchers are spreading their lies through national newspapers, such as the NYT. The editor should get a response from all of us regarding this one sided article written by Dave Phillipps who broke the Tom Davis story and the wild horses he sold for slaughter in Mexico a few years back.


  6. Vote carefully! Both presidential candidates have potential haters for the chief of staff position. I heard Ken Salizar was one.


  7. BLM bogus population rates: Falsified figures for the Wyoming checkerboard wild horse herds, where BLM claimed the following one-year wild-horse herd-growth figures, from 2015 to 2016:

    Adobe Town 71% increase in one year (from 602 wild horses to 1,030);
    Great Divide Basin 237% increase in one year (from 199 wild horses to 670); and
    Salt Wells Creek 522% increase in one year (from 117 wild horses to 728).

    Look for yourself:

    Liked by 1 person

  8. You and I have paid Cattoor Livestock a total of $4,030,109 since June of 2009 for capturing our wild horses just in Wyoming.
    (Not all of that money was for the Checkerboard herd areas)


    • Wyoming, home of the brave, land of the free subsidies:

      Individual (State) Income Tax Rate: 0%
      Corporate Income Tax Rate: 0%
      Sales Tax: 4%
      Property Tax Collections Per Capita: $2,173

      Wyoming is one of seven states that do not collect a personal income tax. However, revenue lost to Wyoming by not having a personal income tax may be made up through other state-level taxes, such as the Wyoming sales tax and the Wyoming property tax.

      In addition to having no personal income tax, Wyoming also collects no state income tax on corporate income or receipts.

      Does anyone have calculations of the grazing permit subsidy cost broken out just for Wyoming, and with some estimate of livestock numbers? I wonder what taxpayers nationwide are paying per head to subsidize a state which does not collect income taxes from its citizens.

      1. Receipts from grazing fees were $125 million less than federal appropriations in 2014.
      Total federal appropriations for the USFS and BLM grazing programs in fiscal year 2014 were $143.6 million, while grazing receipts were only $18.5 million.
      Appropriations for the BLM and USFS grazing programs have exceeded grazing receipts by at least $120 million annually since 2002. Had the federal government charged the average private forage market rate for non-irrigated lands in the western states, grazing receipts would have been on average $261 million, greatly exceeding annual appropriations.

      Total BLM Acres Grazed in Wyoming (2004): 15,917,000
      [I can’t find any specifics for total grazing fee costs vs income in Wyoming]…/grazing/pdfs/CostsAndConsequences...

      Direct grazing costs are 37 percent of BLM range, recreation, mining and timber budgets.
      Indirect costs attributable to BLM livestock grazing (37 percent of indirect program costs) $154.8 MILLION

      Revenues: $6.1 Million

      The Forest Service deposited $1.6 million to the federal treasury from grazing fees in FY 2000. 10 The Bureau of Land Management collected approximately $4.5 million.

      Profit or Loss: – $459.9 Million

      The total known cost of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management grazing programs is $466 million annually. Revenues to the federal treasury are approximately $6.1 million from grazing fees, which means only 1.3 percent of the annual cost of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management grazing programs is recovered from user fees.

      Liked by 1 person

    It is disturbing to see the headline, and alongside comments to last week’s HCN article titled “It’s time to come to terms with euthanizing wild horses.”

    “Trump met with a leader of the land transfer movement.
    A Nevada county commissioner says the Republican nominee was receptive to the idea of forcing the feds to turn over public lands.”



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