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Legal challenge to bureau's muster plan

October 10, 2010

Wild horse advocates have mounted a legal challenge to federal plans for a roundup near Colorado's North Piceance herd area.

The case was filed in federal court on October 7 against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar by Habitat for Horses, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Cloud Foundation, Toni Moore and Dr Don Moore.

They are challenging what they call the Bureau of Land Management's ongoing illegal treatment of wild horses residing on public lands.

From Monday, the bureau plans to gather an estimated 138 wild horses outside the official herd management area comprising 190,000-acres.

It says it will not not gather any of the estimated 318 wild horses currently found within the official herd area, pending additional analysis.

However, attorneys for the plaintiffs, Bruce Wagman (of Schiff Hardin) and Valerie Stanley, are asking the court for an injunction to stop the removal pending a complete judicial review of the bureau's conduct.

The complaint alleges four counts and violations committed by the bureau: violation of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Information Quality Act and the Federal Land Policy Management Act.

The suit has been brought against bureau director Robert Abbey and field manager of the Colorado White River Field Office Kent Walter, in addition to Salazar.

"The BLM's 'shoot from the hip' policy of indiscriminately destroying and removing long standing wild horse herds has to come to an end," says R.T. Fitch, volunteer executive director of a co-supporting organisation, the Habitat for Horses Advisory Council.

"Poor accounting, outdated data and disengagement from the reality of the range is the hallmark of the BLM's business plan. They must be stopped.

"BLM and other public agencies have eliminated over a third of wild horse herds designated for protection by Congress in 1971," said Cloud Foundation volunteer executive director Ginger Kathrens.

"Colorado has only a few hundred wild horses remaining and the destruction of yet another herd is unthinkable - cruel, costly and completely unnecessary. It is a managing-to-extinction policy that must stop."

The court action is co-funded by Habitat for Horses Advisory Council and the ASPCA.

A suit filed last week to protect the nearby West Douglas wild horse herd has so far resulted in a one-year postponement of that "zeroing out action." The case remains in court.

At issue in that case is a bureau decision made early in September to remove a herd of about 100 horses south of Rangely, in the West Douglas herd.

The bureau says the wild horses in the West Douglas herd are isolated from the larger Piceance-East Douglas herd management area, immediately to the east, which is managed to maintain a healthy wild horse herd of 135-235 horses.

"The West Douglas herd area is simply not as suitable for wild horses as the area to the east," said a bureau field manager Kent Walter.

"Wild horses are an integral part of the multiple use management of the 1.5-million acre White River Field Office. We will continue to manage for wild horses in the better-suited, 190,000-acre Piceance-East Douglas Herd Management Area."

The bureau made the decision to remove the wild horses from West Douglas through various public planning efforts since 1975, including the current 1997 White River Resource Management Plan.



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