Animal advocates seek to intervene in Wyoming wild horse lawsuit

Wild horses in Wyoming.
Wild horses in Wyoming. © BLM

Two animal advocacy groups have filed court papers seeking to intervene in a lawsuit in which the state of Wyoming is suing federal authorities over their management of wild horse.

Protect Mustangs and Friends of Animals are seeking to get in involved in the case, brought by Wyoming against the US Department of Interior and the Bureau of Land Management.

The office of Governor Matt Mead announced the filing of court papers earlier this month, in an action first signaled last August.

Mead said: “It is my belief, and the belief of other western governors, that the BLM does not have the resources to manage wild horses effectively.

“By filing suit it sends a message that wild horse management is a priority and the BLM must be provided the funding necessary to manage them.”

Jenni Barnes, staff attorney for Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program, said the BLM remove 1263 horses from the Wyoming range in September, which reduced wild horse populations in the affected areas to below their appropriate management levels.

“I am appalled at Wyoming’s attempt to remove even more wild horses from our public lands,” she said.

“We all have a right to be involved in decisions about our public lands, yet it appears that Wyoming is trying to bypass this process and make a side deal with BLM to eradicate wild horses.

“Friends of Animals will not just stand by while this happens and we are intervening to protect the freedom of the last remaining wild horses in the state.”

Protect Mustangs and Friends of Animals are concerned that the BLM has shown a willingness to settle actions seeking to force the removal of horses in Wyoming.

They cited the removal of removal of wild horses from the so-called checkerboard area, a mix of federal and private land that runs along an old railroad route across southern Wyoming, this last summer.

The BLM did not advocate for wild horse conservation, but instead entered a consent decree with the plaintiffs in which the BLM agreed to remove all horses from the checkerboard area, the groups said.

“BLM’s ridiculously biased and self proclaimed ‘appropriate management level’ always favors commercial livestock grazing and the extractive industry on public land,” said Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs.

“The State of Wyoming and the BLM are trying to blow away the 1971 Protection Act wherein wild horses and burros should receive primary but not exclusive use of designated areas on public land. Just follow the money to understand why they don’t like wild horses.”

The groups say they oppose all removals of wild horses and believe the management levels set for herd management areas in Wyoming were too low, outdated and did not accurately reflect the number of wild horses needed to maintain genetic viability.

Novak continued: “We feel compelled to intervene because the BLM isn’t protecting America’s wild horses and burros the way they should.

“BLM’s new wipe-out plan is to complain their hands are tied and then invite states and other land-grabbers to sue them to roundup wild horses—under false claims of alleged overpopulation. This subterfuge must be stopped.”

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