Top U.S. Law Firm Threatens Suit over BLM Wild Horse Roundup in California
Planned Capture of 2,000 Mustangs and Burros Sets Stage For Court Battle Over
Federal Wild Horse Management Program
Washington, DC (June 22, 2010) – Today, the national law firm of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney P.C. (BIR) notified the U.S. Department of Justice that it intends to file suit over the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) proposed roundup and removal of 1,855 wild horses and 210 burros in the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area (HMA) located in Northeastern California. The letter was written after extensive public comments on the roundup (available here) were submitted to the BLM by In Defense of Animals (IDA), which also filed suit in federal court last November over the controversial roundup of nearly 2,000 wild horses from the Calico Mountains Complex in northwestern Nevada.
“We maintain the BLM’s practice of removing and warehousing mustangs is illegal and if the BLM does not relent, we intend to prove it in court,” said William J. Spriggs, lead counsel with BIR. “It’s time for the BLM to postpone the scheduled roundups and to begin a dialogue on how to manage these horses on the range as Congress intended. If the Twin Peaks horses are rounded up, the vast majority will end up in zoo-like conditions at government holding facilities – the BLM already has more horses in holding than free on the range.”
“The Department of Interior’s BLM and Minerals Management Service (MMS) have both reneged on their responsibility as stewards of our public lands by giving free reign to interests that exploit public resources for private gain,” Spriggs continued. “In the same way MMS betrayed the public’s trust by allowing oil companies free rein in the Gulf of Mexico, the BLM consistently caters to a small group of ranching interests and other industries that exploit our public lands at the expense of the horses and other wildlife species.”
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s recent appointment of BLM Director Bob Abbey to bring “reform” to the MMS exemplifies this connection. IDA has criticized the move, calling for President Obama to truly “clean house” by firing the “industry-cozy” Abbey and Salazar.
Last week, IDA submitted extensive comments on the BLM’s Preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) for the “Twin Peaks Herd Management Area Wild Horse and Burro Gather Plan.” IDA’s 20 pages of comments blast BLM’s population estimates and include BLM internal records and memos, BLM-funded studies and research plans, a photograph of a crippled wild horse taken by an ex-BLM horse specialist and other damning material demonstrating that the BLM’s proposed roundup is illegal and violates the mandates of the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
IDA’s comments are available at https://xxxwww.idausa.org/campaigns/horses/IDA_TwinPeaks.pdf
The BLM intends to remove 80 percent of the horses living in the Twin Peaks HMA, in order to reach an Appropriate Management Level of just 448-785 wild horses and 72-116 burros on the 789,852 acre area. At the same time, BLM authorizes up to four times more cattle than wild horses in Twin Peaks and seven times more sheep than burros. The BLM roundup plans involve the use of helicopters to stampede horses for up to ten miles in the hot summer months – most foals will only be four to five months old. Of the horses rounded up and removed, family members will be separated for life and stallions will be castrated before being sent to long-term holding facilities in the Midwest. The roundup is scheduled to take place during the hot summer months of August and September 2010 – because mule deer hunters had complained that the “nuisance and noise” of the roundup would “dramatically reduce the quality of their hunting experience” in September and October – and is expected to take 45 to 60 days, costing American taxpayers millions of dollars.
Wild horses comprise a small fraction of grazing animals on public lands, where they are outnumbered by livestock nearly 50 to 1. The BLM has recently increased cattle grazing allotments in areas where wild horses are being removed. Currently the BLM manages more than 256 million acres of public lands of which cattle grazing is allowed on 160 million acres; wild horses are only allowed on 26.6 million acres this land, which must be shared with cattle. The Obama Administration plans to remove nearly 12,000 wild horses and burros from public lands by October 2010. There are currently more than 36,000 wild horses warehoused in government holding facilities and only 33,000 wild horses free on the range.