Suit to block feral horse plan is frivolous

As sure as hogs wallow in slop, one month after the Bureau of Land Management announced a plan to properly control the population of feral horses on a nearly 4 million-acre tract of land 50 miles southeast of Elko, a New York nonprofit group calling itself Friends of Animals filed a federal lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the BLM gave “no opportunity for the public to review or comment on its decision” and thus violated its own procedures and requirements of federal law. Actually, the suit merely tries to throw overheated rhetoric at a decision with which the Friends of Animals disagree.

In December the BLM outlined a 10-year plan to control the population of mustangs in the Antelope, Antelope Valley, Goshute, Maverick-Medicine, Spruce-Pequop and Triple B Herd Management Areas, plus another million acres onto which the horses have spread. The area currently has 9,500 horses, 11 times more than the low estimate for what the forage and water can support, about 900 horses.

The plan is to gather and remove some excess horses and control the remaining population with castration of some males and chemical fertility control of some females. The goal is to establish stable herds of about 60 percent male and 40 percent female.

There are already about 45,000 “wild” horses being held in storage pens across the West at a cost of $50 million a year.

The Friends suit claims an Environmental Impact Statement is required for all “major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.”

But the “Decision Record” signed by Elko District BLM Manager Jill Silvey clearly states that following “public review” she found the plan “will not have a significant impact to the human environment, and that the Environmental Impact Statement is not required.” This is backed up by a 361-page Environmental Assessment and a four-page Finding of No Significant Impact.

Though the federal lawsuit claims there was a lack of public overview, it states there were 4,940 comments submitted to the BLM during a public comment period.

Silvey’s decision notes, “The BLM received over 4,940 comment submissions during the public comment period; the majority of those submissions (more than 4,780 or 97%) were form letters. Form letters are generated from a singular website from a non-governmental organization, such as an animal advocacy group. Comments identified on form letters were considered along with the rest of the comments received, but as one collective letter. … Letters and e-mails were received both in support of and in opposition to the gather.”

The lawsuit wonders all over the legal rangeland, ruminating about the impact of sterilization on social behavior in herds.

It spouts such pseudo-scientific folderol as this: “A potential disadvantage of both surgical and chemical castration is loss of testosterone and consequent reduction in or complete loss of male-type behaviors necessary for maintenance of social organization, band integrity, and expression of a natural behavior repertoire.”

But the lawsuit fails to ever address the fact the feral horses are currently starving and dying of thirst due to their excess numbers, much less their impact on wildlife, ranching and recreation.

The suit demands that the court block the population control plan, and, of course, seeks for themselves “reasonable costs, litigation expenses, and attorneys’ fees.”

Meanwhile, the BLM argues, “A gather of wild horses from the area is also necessary to prevent continued degradation of rangeland resources, and the unnecessary death or suffering of individual wild horses that are being currently impacted by a lack of water and forage. The BLM is required to manage multiple uses to avoid continued degradation of the rangeland, and reduce the potential for catastrophic loss of animals.”

The courts should let the BLM try its management plan for a couple of years and hear the horse huggers’ suit later if it is not working. Doing nothing while the litigation languishes is not an option. — TM


  1. If seeking to require a federal agency to comply with the law is frivolous in your mind, so be it. The work of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program—which is located in Colorado—to protect wild horses has been criticized by many from the anti-public lands, pro-cattle community. The same people that criticize the federal government for not making more public lands available to cattle (free of charge, of course) often are the ones who disparage wild horses and their supporters. Frankly, anything they disagree with must be frivolous. Of course, such insults disappear when we win these case, which has been often. BLM’s ongoing disregard for the law when it comes to wild horse roundups has allowed Friends of Animals to notch victories for wild horses in Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Arizona in recent years. So Mr. Mitchell, stick around for the outcome. Win or lose, however, Friends of Animals won’t apologize for sticking up for horses!

    Michael Harris
    Director, Wildlife Law Program
    Friends of Animals
    Western Region Office
    7500 E. Arapahoe Road, Suite 385
    Centennial, CO 80108

  2. We are not horse huggers. We are horse owners who do not believe in selling our majestic horses for meat to Europe or anywhere else. Why don’t they eat their horses and dogs they do not believe in loving pets. Use your over crowed prisons to re-train these horses and geld the stallions then sell to good homes. The prisoners are being housed , feed, medical etc and they are killers and rapists etc .So think about that before you kill and make extinct every animal on this planet. Spelling not great but you know what I mean. We are killing off animals right and left and one day none will be left. But ,what do you expect from United Horseman they are a slaughter organization.They believe in killing and eating horse and dog. There sick people !Just ask them ? They will tell you .

    • Teri Nehrenz says:

      Barbara, I absolutely agree. What better way to rehabilitate a drug addict or minor offender. So many prisons have programs for dogs and it works wonderfully. Prison is not meant to rehabilitate but it should be. My mom personally adopted two dogs from a prison program, they were very well trained and for a senior couple, PERFECT!!! The dogs would have otherwise been euthanized or stuck in shelters.
      It gives the prisoners something positive to focus on; something they need with all the negativity they’re surrounded by daily. The prisons certainly have enough land, money and labor to support such efforts.

  3. Did I read that right? Five million acres can only support 900 horses?? But now there are 11 times that many. So how many acres of the five million acres is useable? This is a case of ranchers wanting the land for pasturing their cattle. Probably political influence as well. How many cattle could live on the 5 million acres?? There was also a mention of the horses negatively affecting recreation in the area, how so?
    If BLM thinks numbers should be brought down by castration, etc, a simple way to handle the situation would be to feed the mares a hormone that would sterilize them.But I know how BLM works, every month they have tocomplete a progress report, and with not a lot to do, this would give them an excuse for their lively hood for years. The conservation department should provide water for the wildlife in order to keep their numbers up to sell permits. That should help to solve the water problem for the horses.Remember we are talking about five million acres! Apparently the 9000 have been able to survive. Could there possibly be uranium under that land? hmmm

  4. Trace Anderson says:

    This is the federal governments ill use of government owned land and forgive my pun – cow toeing to the ranchers who freely use the land to graze their cattle. If ‘nearly 4 million acres’ of land cannot sustain 9500 wild horses (sorry they aren’t feral – they belong there), then I wonder what that land has on it that it can’t sustain 9500 wild horses. I mean 421.05 acres per horse should sustain that horse its entire life. I wish I could give my horses 421.05 acres per head. That means someone else is using the land. Our wild horses should be controlled in population, but castration is the biggest answer, not running the horses down with helicopters until they collapse with exhaustion and then they are shot from the helicopter by a marksman. Our government hasn’t really thought this out well, they however do again the pun ‘cow toe’ to the ranchers. There are many ways we can recover these horses without putting their lives in danger by running them down in helicopters, 4 wheelers, and any other vehicle that institutes fear into a horse to run it into the ground. We have proven that- we have how many in holding pens right now? Let’s start using our brains and solving this humanely.

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