By Carol. J. Walker, Dir. of Field Documentation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation
WY Federal Court Rules Against BLM in Checkerboard Roundup Case
Says BLM Can’t Exclude Foals from Roundup Counts to Remove More Horses from the Range
Cheyenne, WY (January 10, 2019) . . . Yesterday the U.S. District for the District of Wyoming handed a victory to the American Wild Horse Campaign and wildlife photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl, ruling in favor of a lawsuit suit to stop the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from illegally rounding up hundreds of wild horses in a helicopter capture operation in southwestern Wyoming.
The lawsuit charged the BLM with violating three federal laws by rounding up hundreds more horses than previously disclosed by excluding foals and weanlings from its official count of horses removed from the range. The Court agreed with AWHC, explicitly noting that “[t]he question is whether BLM’s approach to the 2017 excess determination was a deviation from prior practices. The answer is clearly yes.” Therefore, the court found that this roundup decision was arbitrary and capricious and “without observance of the procedures required by law.” The court then vacated the roundup decision and remanded it to the agency for further proceedings consistent with the decision.
“We applaud the Court for recognizing that the BLM’s action of permanently removing hundreds more horses than it determined to be excess is unlawful, particularly in light of the Tenth Circuit’s strongly worded 2016 ruling telling BLM to comply with federal law when removing horses from these public lands.” said attorney William Eubanks of Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks LLP who represents the plaintiffs. “It’s clear that the BLM is trying every technique possible to remove more horses from the range in these HMAs than allowed by law.”
AWHC has led a years-long legal battle against over the BLM’s plan to eradicate wild horses from a two million-acre area of public and private land known as the Wyoming Checkerboard 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 public lands.
It’s the third time the organization has filed suit to challenge the BLM’s illegal actions in this area. In 2016, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals handed the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign two precedent setting legal victories related to the BLM’s actions in Wyoming. (More on the Tenth Circuit Decisions here and here.)
The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.
Meyer, Glitzenstein & Eubanks is the nation’s leading public interest law firm with offices in Washington, DC and Ft. Collins, Colorado.