Horse News

Utah Wild Horses Lose Bid for Freedom in Federal Court

story by as published in Courthouse News

Friends of Animals fail to convince Federal Judge…”

i-said-noWASHINGTON (CN) – An animal-rights group lost their court battle to block the U.S. government from removing hundreds of wild horses from Utah’s Cedar Mountains.

The Bureau of Land Management, a federal agency tasked with managing public lands, performs roundups periodically across the country to keep the wild horse population from deteriorating the rangeland.

Though the bureau counted 800 horses in the Cedar Mountain herd in March 2016, an aerial survey this past December showed that the herd had increased to approximately 960.

The bureau proposed a plan to round up 600 from the herd, permanently remove no more than 300 of them, and return the rest to the wild after treating them with a contraceptive vaccine called PZP, or porcine zona pellucid.

On Feb. 7, a day before the scheduled roundup, U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington rejected a demand by Friends of Animals for an injunction.

Friends of Animals had accused the bureau of violating the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to conduct a new environmental assessment, something the group said the agency was required to do because it would gather more horses this time than it did nine years ago.

Cooper notes in the 23-page ruling, however, that the bureau’s proposal seeks to permanently remove 150 fewer wild horses than it did in 2008, making the overall number of horses affected about the same this time around.

That renders a new environmental assessment unnecessary, Cooper determined.

Friends of Animals also wanted the bureau to review recent studies on possible adverse side effects of PZP on horse health and birthing cycles.

In rejecting this move, Cooper said federal agencies are not required to consider every study that crosses their desks, unless it shows a significant impact on the quality of the human environment the agency had not previously considered.

Here, Cooper found the bureau in compliance.

“BLM considered the studies offered by plaintiff in its comments and determined that they did not significantly change BLM’s prior analysis,” the ruling states.

“The bureau found studies on consecutive years of PZP treatment, for example, irrelevant to the proposed action because Cedar Mountain mares are treated in four to five-year intervals, not in consecutive years or breeding cycles,” the ruling continues (emphasis original).

Cooper also found that the BLM had already considered older studies with findings similar to those Friends of Animals wanted the agency to review.

“Given these reasoned determinations, the Court concludes that the BLM most likely acted within its informed discretion in refusing to find that the ‘new information’ offered by Plaintiff warranted additional environmental analysis,” the ruling states.

In opting not to grant an injunction to the group, Cooper called its claim that PZP has long-term and adverse health consequences on the horses “unsubstantiated by scientific literature.”

“Plaintiff points only to the declaration of its photographer-member to support it,” the ruling states.

Cooper additionally shot down the advocacy group’s claim that the BLM failed to consider range conditions and herd size in making its determination to remove wild horses to maintain an ecological balance.

As the bureau said in its final decision, which the ruling quotes, the “gather is necessary to remove excess wild horses and to reduce the population in order to achieve and maintain a thriving natural ecological balance between wild horses and other multiple uses as required under [the Wild Horses Act].” (Emphasis original.)

The logic underpinning that “appears simple and sound,” Cooper found.

On whether the BLM should be required to make a determination of excess before claiming the authority to treat young mares with PZP, Cooper found the bureau to be in compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.

“It is likely that BLM properly determined that there were excess horses in the Cedar Mountain HMA,” the ruling states, abbreviating herd management area. “And its decision to remove or otherwise manage that excess population does not appear to be in violation of the Wild Horses Act.”

14 replies »

  1. And the beat goes on with the horses being the losers! This whole bunch of Deplorables needs to go from the Dumpster down to all the local conservatives that think they have the right to public lands because they live out there and livestock are their livelyhoid. Geta life the LAND first and foremost belongs to horses and the burros plus the other creatures living amongst them! And not the whiner Welfare Ranchers! These roundups must be stopped! And every horse and burro accounted for that’s still alive on our Planet!!


  2. Excuse me?
    What the heck is THIS?
    “Cooper said federal agencies are not required to consider every study that crosses their desks, unless it shows a significant impact on the quality of the human environment the agency had not previously considered.”

    They are not MANAGING a human environment therefore humans should be given no more consideration than the rest of what lives there. They are managing the wild lands of the West that humans only VISIT.

    Humans should have no impact outside their fair share. And since we ALL own the horses, and being human, I say they are not giving me MY fair share of the horses and land and they are using more than their fair share of the taxes on unneeded roundups! And as a human, I demand scientific evidence of the need for this, which they couldn’t even give to congress (also humans)


  3. Not required to consider every study? Good grief. So much for the ‘sound science’ mantra we keep hearing ad nauseam. Another ‘so-called’ judge. lol


  4. It sounds suspiciously like the BLM’s reason for tossing out comments that do not have information that hasn’t been ‘previously considered’.


  5. BLM’s methods are to lie until they get what they want, by which point it will be too late for our wild horses and burros and what once were OUR public lands.


  6. BLM’s personnel & methods are archaeic!! This result of Utah,s Cedar Mountain Wild Horsesis by BLM is typical, rhetoric the BLM spews out. BLM view/comments make no sense. BLM needs new blood !!


  7. This is the same federal judge that allowed the West Douglas Wild Horses roundup to proceed
    Seems rather odd that this same judge was again chosen to rule on yet another Wild Horse roundup
    HOW are these judges selected?

    “On Feb. 7, a day before the scheduled roundup, U.S. District Judge CHRISTOPHER COOPER in Washington rejected a demand by Friends of Animals for an injunction”

    By The Cloud Foundation
    Washington, DC (Sept. 15, 2015)
    Today, Federal Judge CHRISTOPHER R. COOPER denied a Preliminary Injunction to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from carrying out its decades old quest to remove the entire West Douglas wild horse herd. Tomorrow the BLM will begin a helicopter roundup and removal of wild horses in and around the herd area with the ultimate goal of zeroing out the herd (area).


  8. Well-connected rookie judge to preside over Khattala Benghazi trial

    Just three months into his tenure on the federal bench, and before his formal investiture ceremony later this week, newly minted U.S. District Judge Christopher “Casey” Cooper has been handed one of the most high-profile and politically sensitive American terrorism cases in recent years.

    Cooper, who was confirmed by the Senate in March, has been randomly assigned by the court’s selection system to preside over the U.S. government’s case against Ahmed Abu Khattala, a suspected ringleader in the deadly attack on U.S. outposts in Benghazi, Libya.

    Despite Cooper’s connections to the Obama administration, Khattala can perhaps take some solace in Cooper’s ties to the defense bar. With his father-in-law, Cooper successfully defended senior Saudi government officials in a lawsuit brought by families of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.



    Neither WFRHBA nor FLPMA authorizes BLM’s multiple use concept for all herd areas

    Another example of BLM’s erosion of the WFRHBA protections is the rewording of the WFRHBA mandate “[a]ll management activities shall be at the minimal feasible level”. BLM’s regulation says “[m]anagement shall be at the minimum level necessary to attain the objectives identified in approved land use plans and herd management area plans.” 43 CFR 4710.4, 16 U.S.C. §1333. Two very different laws. So if a land use plan authorizes a land giveaway or increased recreation or mining, “management…at a minimum level” can mean round up and removal, according to the BLM.

    The BLM’s job is undoubtedly complicated by the mandate of the Federal Land Policy Management Act, which requires management of public lands under concepts of multiple use and sustained yield. 43 U.S.C. §§ 1701, et seq. But the multiple use concept does not trump the WFRHBA protections for wild horses. In fact, the statute makes clear that the protections under WFRHBA take precedence. FLPMA, 43 U.S.C. § 1732 (a) Yet, despite this, BLM has issued a regulation that provides “[w]ild horses and burros shall be considered comparably with other resource values in the formulation of land use plans.” 43 C.F.R. §4700.0-6(b).


  10. Friends of Wild Horses

    We are disappointed that the judge denied Friend’s of Animals’ preliminary injunction today in the Cedar Mountain Wild horse case, so the horrible roundup is moving forward. However, we will continue to fight for Utah’s wild horses because we don’t think the judge properly considered our legal claims. So we are moving forward with our with the case on the merits and we will potentially appeal to the D.C. Circuit if necessary. We believe we have a strong case to ensure that the Bureau of Land Management reconsiders its practice of rounding up horses with just an old, stale Determination of NEPA Adequacy document that doesn’t reflect the current population of wild horses and their habitat. Stay tuned!


  11. 433 more wild horses sent to Axtell ranch

    Robert Stevens
    Managing editor

    AXTELL—The BLM-contracted Axtell wild horse and burro off-range corrals ran by Despain Livestock received 433 more wild horses after the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducted a large wild horse herd gather and removal in late January.
    The Sulphur Wild Horse Herd Management Area (HMA) in western Utah contained a large amount of excess wild horses, says Lisa Reid, BLM public affairs specialist. To prevent the HMA from becoming unmanageably over-populated, the BLM conducted a mass gather and removal, along with administration of a fertility control drug.
    The 265,675-acre Sulphur HMA is located in western Iron, Beaver, and Millard counties.
    Due to the high number of horses that were concentrated along Utah State Route 21 and the safety concern of wild horse vehicle collisions, the first 200 horses captured near the highway were removed first.
    The BLM selectively chose a total of 192 horses to return to the HMA to ensure the historic colonial Spanish type horse remains in the area. According to Reid, out of the 192 horses selected to remain in the Sulphur HMA, 80 mares were treated with a fertility control vaccine.
    Reid says the 433 animals removed from the range were shipped to the Despain Livestock off-range corrals contracted to the BLM in Axtell and will be made available for adoption through the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Program.
    “Due to extremely harsh winter circumstances and many horses that were captured in very thin or poor condition, the gather was concluded sooner than anticipated,” Reid said. “Deep snows were encountered that hampered the gather crew’s ability to access much of the southern reaches of the HMA.”
    For more information, contact Lisa Reid, public affairs specialist, at (435)743-3128 or


    Sole Focus on Commodities Threatens Natural Heritage, 44-Year Veteran Warns

    Vernal, Utah -The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management has lost sight of its mission in a quest to maximize fossil energy and other resource exploitation on public wild lands, according to the retirement message sent by a career natural resource specialist and posted today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The sobering message depicts cascading natural system failures due to unchecked oil and gas drilling and related cumulative damage to public lands and waters.
    Stan Olmstead started his career in natural resource management inside public agencies 44 years ago, with stints in the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. For the past 20 years he has been a Natural Resource Specialist and an Environmental Scientist in BLM’s Vernal Field Office in eastern Utah, near the Colorado border. On September 28th, his final day of federal service, he sent a memo entitled “Last Formal Comment” to all BLM employees throughout Utah.
    In this memo, he decried a singular “focus on commodities and economics as opposed to environmental health.” He elaborated by writing “At the Vernal Office little concern has been shown to care for sensitive species … We promote energy development without stop and continue to measure natural resources by dollar value…” Olmstead offered these pointed examples:
    • BLM fails to protect sensitive wildlife and as a result “lost the mountain plover; the only known population in Utah… Little effort to prevent this loss was implemented.” He called this dereliction “a serious mission departure.”
    • “Plugging and abandonment of well sites have not been a priority. Numerous oil & gas wells have not produced for more than 15 years and yet these sites remain un-reclaimed.”
    • Cumulative impacts from oil and gas drilling. For example, “we disturb large percentages of our [grazing] allotments located in oil & gas fields and AUMs [Animal Unit Months] remain the same. If you lose 30% of the forage in a specific allotment it is logical to reduce the AUMs by 30%.”
    “Stan is telling us that BLM has lost its way. BLM is supposed to be a ‘multiple-use agency’ but managers have misplaced the ‘multiple’ as they go full-drill and shortchange conservation,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist also formerly with BLM, noting that the BLM Director position is currently vacant. “BLM needs a visionary new leader who will keep public lands development at sustainable levels and understands you can’t have every use on every acre.”
    Olmstead also cited poor land reclamation, unmonitored water depletion for endangered fish of the Colorado River watershed, and mounting air pollution, all due to divergence from BLM’s mission “to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” He concluded with this call to colleagues:
    “We need to alter our bureaucratic method of operation …Be honest about what is happening.”

    Liked by 1 person

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