Wild horse access lawsuit set to move forward

Free-ranging horses from the Onaqui Herd, near Dugway, Utah.
Free-ranging horses from the Onaqui Herd, near Dugway, Utah. © BLM/Utah

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is looking to fast-track a case over public acces to wild horse roundups.

The case has been brought by Wild Horse Education against the Bureau of Land Management.

The order states: “The briefing schedule is amended as follows: the answering brief is now due November 18, 2013; and the optional reply brief is due within 7 days after service of the answering brief. The Clerk shall place this preliminary injunction appeal on the first available calendar upon completion of briefing.”

Wild Horse Education founder Laura Leigh, a journalist for Horseback Magazine, has been attempting to document the bureau’s management of wild horses and burros on the range and in holding facilities.

She has become embroiled in what she calls a four-year chess game trying to see what happened to wild horses once removed from the range.

“This case has been up and down the courts since 2010,” Leigh said.

“I am happy to see that we may finally get a ruling to protect the public’s right to know about government actions and the wild horse and burro program. This has been truly the marathon of my life.”

This case involves documentation that sets out to show how access to witness the hands-on management of wild horses from range through ultimate disposition has allegedly been restricted after reports and images were released that portrayed the program in a negative light.

In a recent hearing in this case, author Terri Farley stated that when she began to observe roundups to assist her in creating the children’s novels, The Phantom Stallion series, that she had much greater access. “I even dedicated my first book to BLM staff.” she said.

“That would not happen today.”

Leigh’s attorney, Gordon Cowan, said: “This was a simple case that involved a journalist’s right to document and report on wild horses. This is not an issue of national security or a war zone.

“The case is still a simple issue. The public has a right to know.”


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