Home>775Times>Wild Horse Advocates Win Lawsuit Against BLM Over Round Up Practices

Wild Horse Advocates Win Lawsuit Against BLM Over Round Up Practices

By TheNevadaGlobeStaff, March 29, 2024 6:49 pm

A federal judge in Reno has sided with wild horse advocates in a lawsuit challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) handling of controversial horse roundups. U.S. District Judge Miranda M. Du ruled on Friday that the BLM unreasonably delayed the completion of “Herd Management Area Plans” (HMAPs), which are crucial documents outlining goals and actions for managing wild horse populations.

The lawsuit, filed by Wild Horse Education (WHE) in January 2022, specifically targeted the Pancake Complex roundup, which gained national attention after video surfaced of a young horse with a broken leg fleeing a pursuing helicopter.

“I am simply elated,” said Laura Leigh, President of WHE. “The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is about more than just removal. Today, the court affirmed the intention of that law.”

The judge’s decision highlights the BLM’s failure to follow its own established procedures properly. The ruling states that the agency’s delay in finalizing HMAPs deprives interested parties, like WHE, of crucial opportunities for administrative review.

The court has ordered the BLM to revisit the existing environmental assessment for the Pancake Complex roundup and complete the corresponding HMAP within one year. Additionally, the ruling criticizes the BLM’s decades-long delays in developing HMAPs, calling them “egregious” and a violation of federal regulations.

The Pancake Complex roundup, located west of Ely, Nevada, resulted in the capture or death of 26 horses by February 2022.

WHE President Leigh argues that the BLM’s current “gather plans” lack sufficient detail. These plans primarily focus on the number of horses targeted for removal, neglecting crucial factors like forage allocation and the impact of livestock grazing on the same land.

“For over 12 years I have been trying to address critical issues of on-range management planning with BLM and have been repeatedly denied,” Leigh stated. “The HMAP is the only opportunity for public input on management plans, and finally, after 38 years, BLM will need to provide that opportunity.”

This legal victory comes amidst ongoing national discussions about wild horse management. The video from the Pancake Complex roundup sparked outrage, prompting calls for an end to the use of helicopters in these operations. U.S. Rep. Dina Titus of Nevada is a vocal advocate for alternative methods, including the use of reversible birth control for wild horse populations.

The future of wild horse management remains uncertain, but this court decision marks a significant win for advocates who believe the BLM needs to prioritize responsible and transparent practices.

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