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Lawsuit seeks to stop California muster

July 17, 2010

A lawsuit has been filed to stop the removal of nearly 2000 wild horses and burros from the Twin Peaks herd management area north of Susanville, California.

The roundup, to begin in August, is the second largest capture and removal operation planned by the Bureau of Land Managemtn for the 2010 financial year.

The legal action was filed in the Eastern District of California on behalf of an ecologist, Dr Chad Hanson; a wild horse sanctuary founder, Barbara Clarke; DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary; local resident and wild horse enthusiast Linda Hay; and the animal protection group, In Defense of Animals (IDA).

"The Department of Interior's mismanagement of our public resources, so tragically revealed in the Gulf oil spill, extends to our nation's treasured wild horses and burros," said Stuart Gross, of Cotchett, Pitre and McCarthy.

"This suit aims to stop the agency's mass and illegal removal of federally protected mustangs from the range to serve the livestock industry and other commercial interests that exploit our public lands."

The action alleges the planned roundup violates both the Wild and Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

"The bureau's planned Twin Peaks stampede, roundup, removal, and off-site warehousing of these wild horses ignores the mandates and instructions of both laws in a manner that is both arbitrary and capricious," Gross said.

"In essence, the BLM has engaged in a classic example of crafting a solution and then searching for a problem," said Bill Spriggs, of Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney, counsel involved in several actions against the bureau over roundups.

Spriggs said the Twin Peaks roundup would represent nearly one-third of the 6000 horses the bureau intends to round up in the next four months.

The vast majority of these horses would end up in zoo-like conditions in government holding facilities in the Midwest, he said.

"This scheme is not only fiscally unsustainable, it is also blatantly illegal."

Environmental attorney Rachel Fazio said the department had a policy of removing mass numbers of wild horses from the range "without fulfilling its obligation to establish the need for the action".

"This circumvention of these legal requirements and the unfounded determination that 2000 Twin Peaks wild horses and burros are 'excess' is a cornerstone of this legal action."

Hanson, one of the plaintiffs, is a researcher at the University of California at Davis and author of numerous scientific studies. Clarke is a wild horse expert and director of the 2000-acre DreamCatcher Wild Horse and Burro Sanctuary in Northeastern California.

The lawsuit was filed by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, as well as Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and San Francisco Bay Area-based environmental attorney Rachel Fazio.



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