Court action taken over prospect of Colorado roundup

Wild horses
Wild horse advocates are seeking to head off an emergency roundup by the BLM of horses in northwest Colorado.  © Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Wild horse advoacy groups have filed court action seeking to head off what they fear could be an emergency wild horse roundup in northwest Colorado.

The groups fear the Bureau of Land Management is moving toward an emergency roundup targeting the West Douglas wild horse herd.

Those seeking the emergency motion for a stay against what it calls a “threatened emergency gather” are the Colorado Wild Horse & Burro Coalition, Front Range Equine Rescue, Habitat for Horses, the Cloud Foundation, and Don and Toni Moore.

Their action is against the director of the Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar, and the Bureau of Land Management.

The plaintiffs allege the bureau may be generating an artificial emergency to bypass on-going litigation to prevent the agency from removing the herd.

The plaintiffs, supported by the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, have spent years locked in a legal battle to prevent the bureau “from furthering their long-standing goal of removing the entire North West Colorado wild horse herd from their native public land”.

The organizations collectively allege that they have credible evidence to dispute the bureau’s assertion that a drought emergency exists in the area and the horses must be removed for their own safety.

Last week, the bureau issued two separate warnings to the court that the horses were in distress, but the groups are challenging such claims following what they described as an intensive on-site investigation and survey of the area in question.

In his declaration to the court, local resident and plaintiff Dr Don Moore states: “… in areas where the horses are found there is plenty of fresh water flowing. Some of it flows underground but comes up aboveground in ‘seeps’, which are areas where water bubbles up from freshwater springs beneath the ground and which wild horses regularly find, access, and drink from. We saw many seeps in the past week with a length and a depth sufficient to support the horses. There is, based on my knowledge and experience of this area and these horses, ample fresh water even though an untrained eye might not appreciate the available water in the area.

He continues: “I observed fresh feces from the wild horses and determined that the horses were not dehydrated, based on the size and consistency of the samples observed. Visually, the horses exhibited no signs of dehydration, which could include thin body condition or emaciation.”

Lauryn Wachs, of the Cloud Foundation, also traveled to the area where the bureau said there was no water for the horses and said: “In the past week in the West Douglas Herd Area I observed horses accessing natural water from ‘seeps’, where fresh water was flowing. It was also clear there was ample water for the horses as I observed four horses who were wet, obviously from rolling in mud, a sure sign of available water.”

Wild Horse Freedom Federation volunteer president R.T. Fitch, one of the funding organizations for the court action, added: “This is an old Mustanger trick used by the BLM to circumvent the courts and accomplish what they have always wanted to do, wipe out this entire herd.

“Once again it appears that the BLM is using backroom tactics in an effort to serve their special cattle grazing interests who have joined them in this fight. Private cattle stay, public wild horses go; it’s nothing short of insanity.”

The battle over the West Douglas herd is nearly two decades old.

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