Preservationists Sue BLM Over Alleged Wild Horse Mismanagement

Aug 25, 2014

Wild horse maintenance has been an inciting topic in Utah over the summer months. However, the issue extends beyond state borders with the role of state and federal governments in roundup efforts being debated nationally.

The Bureau of Land Management currently plans to roundup over 800 wild horses from federal lands in Wyoming.

Wild horse preservationists filed a lawsuit against the BLM, postponing the roundup from August 20 to September 1 to give the court time to rule on a preliminary injunction. If the case continues, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign Suzanne Roy said the roundup will be stayed until the court has made a decision.

Roy said the BLM has failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wild Horse Act by moving forward with the roundup without environmental analysis and a public comment period. She said the roundup would reduce the wild horse population to levels below those established by the BLM itself.

“We’re hoping to compel the government to exert its influence to resolve the conflicts between ranchers and wild horses in this area in a way that honors both the ranchers and the American public, which overwhelmingly supports protection of these horses on the public lands,” Roy said.  

The territory where the horses roam is a “checkerboard” area of Wyoming, with alternating parcels of public and private land.  

Two-thirds of the land is owned by the federal government, while less than four percent is owned by the state of Wyoming, according to Roy. The remaining area is privately owned.

Roy said the state of Wyoming has filed to intervene in the litigation on the side of the federal government, despite their small claim on the land.

“One of the things that they are asserting, wrongly, is that they have a sovereign right to manage the wild horses because they have a sovereign right to manage wildlife in their state,” Roy said. “However, it’s very misleading because the wild horses have been granted special federal protections, and the state does not have a sovereign right to manage them.”

Roy said the area has relatively few wild horses with under 2,000 horses on over 2,000,000 acres in the checkerboard area. She says the solution to the conflict is to conduct land trades so that parcels of public land can be next to each other, providing the wild horses with a seamless habitat.

“These ranchers enjoy the privilege of grazing their livestock on our public lands,” Roy said. “So in exchange for the privilege and the tax subsidies that accompany public land grazing, they should be able to be convinced to trade their land parcels and create contiguous habitat.”

Birth control measures are another method Roy claims would be successful in the management of the horses.

Roy said 40,000 people signed a petition within a month's time to protect the wild horses, which she claims shows the public’s strong support of protecting the wild animals.