November 25, 2009

Lawsuits triggers delay of BLM wild horse roundup

Carrol Abel

Calico Mountains wild horse band, June 2009. (BLM)

In response to a lawsuit filed in Federal District Court on Monday, the Bureau of Land Management has postponed a controversial roundup and removal of almost 3,000 wild horses from five Nevada herd management areas. The US Department of Justice announced the delay Tuesday night.

A Preliminary Environmental Assessment for the roundup brought a huge public outcry in the form of 10,000 responses into BLM's Winnemucca office. The now infamous roundup of wild horses from the Calico Complex, originally scheduled to begin December 1, would remove 80-90% of the population estimated at 3,095 horses. The document states that the range cannot support that many horses but also admits to 2,500 cattle that will remain.

William Spriggs, Esq. of Buchanan, Ingersol and Rooney, pro bono attorney for plaintiffs In Defense of Animals (IDA) and wildlife ecologist, Craig Downer, said in response to the announcement, " We welcome this moratorium on the capture and inhumane treatment of the Calico horses. The BLM plan for a massive helicopter roundup of these horses is entirely illegal."

Though the roundup is now delayed until December 28, IDA and Mr. Downer plan to file a motion today for a permanent injunction to prevent the roundup entirely. "We are confident that the court will agree that America's wild horses are protected by law from BLM's plan to indescriminately chase and stampede them into corrals for indeterminate warehousing away from their established habitat." said Spriggs.

JoLynn Worley, BLM representative, says the agency still intends to issue it's formal decision regarding the Preliminary Environmental Assessment some time on Tuesday.

Momentum is growing in the public sector for a moratorium on all roundups. Almost 200 animal rights and wild horse advocate groups have united in the call to stop the roundups and are pressing for a Congressional investigation. Of the many issues in question is the inequitable use of public lands under a multiple use policy. A habitat summary done in July of 2008 by the Animal Welfare Institue shows that the BLM administers over nineteen million acres of public lands..... lands set aside by law for wild horses and burros..... lands that are no longer used for that purpose.