Feds sued over plans to remove wild horses in northeast California

wild-horses-USDA-articleAnimal and environmental advocates have filed legal action in a bid to stop the US Forest Service from removing wild horses from a reserve area in northeast California.

The suit was filed on Monday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

It aims to stop the Forest Service from a plan which it says will eliminate thousands of acres of protected territory, and see up to 80 per cent of the wild horses removed from the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in northeast California’s Modoc National Forest.

The lawsuit asserts that the Forest Service’s decision violates federal animal protection and environmental laws. It alleges the plan unlawfully prioritizes ranchers and privately owned livestock above federally protected wild horses.

The case was filed by the Animal Legal Defense Fund with co-counsel from the Los Angeles-based law firm Caldwell Leslie and the DC public interest environmental law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Return to Freedom, and an individual California resident.

In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which requires preservation of rangelands on which wild horses exist.

Devil’s Garden is officially designated as wild horse territory managed by the Forest Service (a division of the US Department of Agriculture), which has been the homeland of wild horses for at least 150 years.

In August 2013, the Forest Service authorized a decision that will eliminate more than 25,000 acres of wild horse territory and reduce the wild horse population by 80 percent.

The lawuit alleged the Forest Service failed to study the impact of privately owned cattle and sheep who graze in the Devil’s Garden and outnumber wild horses by as much as eightfold over the summer.

It alleges the Forest Service also failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, or formally amend its governing land and resource management plan, despite the significant change in the environmental and legal status quo, as required by the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Forest Management Act.

“Americans depend on federal agencies to manage public lands for all; instead the Forest Service is protecting the private interests of ranchers over all others,” said Animal Defense Fund executive director Stephen Wells.

“Wild horses have a legal right to remain in territories designated and protected by acts of Congress.”

The chief executive of Return to Freedom, Neda DeMayo, said Devil’s Garden remained the last large wild horse territory in California.

“Not only will these changes negatively impact wild horses in Devil’s Garden, but it also raises serious concerns about the long-term genetic viability of these wild horse bands.”

Location of Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in California.
Location of Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in California.

3 thoughts on “Feds sued over plans to remove wild horses in northeast California

  • March 26, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    What is the matter with these people? Its a designated wild horse area and they want to remove the horses so they can graze sheep and cattle?!! Its insane that an agency of our government is planning on just doing what they want without any regard for law! They should all be fired.

  • March 26, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Thank you, American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Return to Freedom, and Animal Defense Fund for taking on these corrupt federal agencies that blatantly ignore federal law and do as they please in behalf of Big Energy, Hunters and Ranchers. This country is on the verge of a revolution and as far as I am concerned it is likely to come from those of us who love horses domestic and wild.

    I will do everything I can to help – write emails, letters, make calls, and donate. I oppose these rogue federal entities and expect that they shall reap what they sow.

    • March 27, 2014 at 3:59 am

      It is not just Americans who care about these horses. I do too ( N.Ireland )and abhore such corruption wherever it occurs. Sadly it seems to be a ubiquitous phenomenon.


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