Advocates call on President Obama to give America’s wild horses a Christmas reprieve
Washington, DC (December 23, 2009). . . . Wild horse advocates today celebrated a partial victory as U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman ordered a lawsuit challenging a Bureau of Land Management roundup of thousands of wild horses in Nevada forward, but denied a preliminary injunction to stop the removal of horses, which is scheduled to begin December 28.
Judge Friedman’s 25-page decision indicates that he found merit in IDA’s argument that the BLM’s practice of stockpiling tens of thousands of horses in long-term holding facilities in the Midwest is not authorized by law, and invited both parties to expedite briefing on that issue. Based on that preliminary finding regarding long-term holding facilities, Judge Friedman stated that “the agency’s [BLM] best option may be to postpone the [Calico] gather,” but he said that was for the BLM to decide while also noting potential harms in such a delay.
The decision is available online.
Advocates are now calling on President Obama to give the horses a holiday reprieve after filing complaints with the Department of Interior and White House Office of Environmental Quality (CEQ) alleging multiple violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
“The President should order a halt to this roundup until the legality of the long-term holding facilities is determined. The BLM itself says this is not an emergency roundup, so there would be no harm in waiting for adjudication of this enormously important issue,” said William J. Spriggs, of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney, which filed the case on behalf of IDA, ecologist Craig Downer and noted children’s author Terri Farley.
“We are on strong ground in charging that the BLM’s policy of stockpiling tens of thousands of horses in the Midwest, off their rightful Western ranges, is contrary to law, the intent of Congress and the will of the American people,” Mr. Spriggs concluded.
Meanwhile, IDA is turning to the Administration in an effort to save the wild horses living in the Calico Mountains Complex which is comprised of more than 500 thousand acres in northwestern Nevada. Beginning December 28, the BLM intends to wipe out 80-90 percent of the estimated 3,000 horses there by stampeding them with helicopters over dangerous winter terrain into capture pens, then loading them on to trucks bound for government holding facilities in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Just four years ago, the BLM rounded up more than two thousand wild horses in Calico in the winter of 2004-2005 and shipped 1,623 horses to short- and long-term holding.
“This is a Christmastime appeal to President Obama on behalf of America’s wild horses,” said Elliot M. Katz, DVM, IDA President. “While the President is enjoying the holidays with his lovely family, In Defense of Animals asks him to think of the horse families who are about to be torn apart forever in the BLM roundup. With the stroke of a pen, he can stop the terror that is about to befall the majestic wild horses of the Calico Mountains in Nevada.”
IDA is asking the Administration to halt the roundup, charging that the BLM violated NEPA by failing to adequately assess the environmental impacts of its massive wild horse capture plan. Over 10,000 public comments were submitted in opposition to the Calico roundup, which the BLM has stated will cost taxpayers $1.7 million.
Despite promising to deliver change, the Obama Administration has continued the Bush Administration’s policy of removing tens of thousands of wild horses from their rightful Western ranges, often to make room for increased grazing of privately-owned livestock on public lands. The BLM currently warehouses 33,000 wild horses in government holding facilities – the legality of which Judge Friedman has just questioned – yet intends to round up and remove 12,000 more horses a year from the West for the next three years. After that time, the number of wild horses held captive in zoo-like conditions will far exceed those left in the wild.
Contacts: William J. Spriggs, Esq., 202-452-6051; Eric Kleiman, 717-939-3231