Nevada mustang lawsuit dismissed again
Thursday, April 13, 2017 1:00 AM
Wild horse advocates last week claimed a major victory in the endless legal battle over mustangs. A federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld a dismissal by a lower court of the lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties, the Nevada Farm Bureau, Nevada Bighorns and Crawford Cattle.
Captured wild horses stretch their legs during basic training so they will be adopted at the BLM Palomino Valley Wild Horse and Burro Adoption Center north of Reno.
The lawsuit sought removal by the Bureau of Land Management of thousands of wild horses from public land in Nevada. The American Wild Horse Campaign, author Terri Farley and photographer Mark Terrell were granted the right to intervene in the case by U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du.
In March, 2015, Judge Du granted the intervenors’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice meaning the lawsuit could not be amended and/or re-filed. The decision was appealed by NACO and the Farm Bureau but was recently upheld in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on April 2, 2017.
According to the AWHC press release, the lawsuit also pushed for the sale and possible slaughter of thousands of captured wild horses currently held in BLM holding facilities. The appeals court found that “NACO seeks judicial oversight and direction of virtually the entire federal wild horse and burro management program in Nevada” which is not the judiciary’s role according to the press release.
“Filed on behalf of Nevada ranchers, who graze private cattle and sheep on public land that they lease at well-below market rates, the NACO lawsuit sought to compel the BLM to immediately round up and remove more than 6,000 wild horses from Nevada public lands, conduct wild horse and burro roundups every two months and to auction, sell or otherwise dispose of the 50,000 wild horses and burros currently stockpiled in government warehousing facilities.”
According to Nick Lawton, an attorney for AWHC, the “baseless” lawsuit was another attempt by the livestock industry to get wild horses off public land. The Wild, Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 says the animals should be protected but does not specify how the animals should be managed.
“We’re pleased that the Courts continue to dismiss attempts by these grazing interests to use the judicial system to rewrite federal law that Congress designed to protect wild horses from capture, not favor the livestock industry,” Lawton said in the AWHC press release on the appeals court decision.
AWHC claims victories in the dismissal of similar lawsuits over wild horses by the State of Wyoming and in Utah. They also claim victory in a lawsuit against the BLM regarding a roundup in Wyoming.
Another wild horse lawsuit filed against the BLM by Pershing County and local ranchers was dismissed “without prejudice” meaning it could be re-filed if the BLM does not complete an Environmental Assessment followed by wild horse roundups in the Blue Wing Complex. Local ranchers contend the mustang herds are over AML (Appropriate Management Level), are impacting wildlife including deer, antelope and sage grouse as well as public land grazing in Pershing County.
Wild horse advocates were granted the right to intervene in the Pershing County lawsuit. However, the lawsuit was dismissed after Winnemucca District BLM officials agreed to address the mustang issue with future gathers and on-the-range fertility control to reduce the Blue Wing Complex herds to AML.