“Judge Robert L. Wilkins called a government assertion “factually unsupported,””
WASHINGTON – A top federal court on Wednesday appeared ready to force changes in a Forest Service plan that reduced wild horse protections in a remote Northern California county.
With tough questions and some pointed statements, three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit revealed their apparent skepticism about management of the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in Modoc County. The Forest Service shrank the territory by about 25,000 acres in 2013.
“You’ve got a problem here,” Judge Patricia Millett told a Justice Department attorney.
At another point during the 30-minute oral argument, Judge Robert L. Wilkins called a government assertion “factually unsupported,” while Judge David Tatel offered that the wild horse advocates “still have a case” even if the government prevails on one issue.
The tenor and the content of the oral argument held before what is often called the nation’s second-highest court suggested eventual victory for the advocates who are challenging the Forest Service. Underscoring the stakes, an attorney for the California Cattlemen’s Association, the state’s farm bureau and other groups sat at the table alongside the federal government’s team…(CONTINUED)