AWHC Defending Wild Horses in Court Against Rancher Attacks

(July 2, 2020) Our litigation not only involves direct challenges to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service management plans. We also intervene in lawsuits where ranching interests have sued the government to compel the removal of wild horses from their home ranges. Here are two examples of open cases where we intervened against ranchers and to protect the freedom of wild horses on our public lands.

Beaver County Utah Intervention Litigation

On February 6, 2017, Plaintiff, Beaver County, Utah, filed a complaint seeking to compel the BLM to remove all excess wild horses from the Sulphur Herd Management Area (HMA). This request sought to eliminate hundreds of federally-protected wild horses from the HMA in order to reduce the competition for limited resources on the range and ensure that ranchers’ continued access to public lands for grazing domestic livestock. 

On March 28, 2017, AWHC, joined by Return to Freedom, The Cloud Foundation, and Steve Paige, represented by Eubanks & Associates (formally Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks), filed a Motion to Intervene in order to protect wild horses on the range.

On October 17, 2018, the court granted our intervention and with that we officially joined this case.

The Status of the Case Today:

The court decided to separate the claims in the case and consider the County’s unreasonable delay claim first, before it considers whether the County’s claim that the BLM’s plan for managing horses in the HMA is arbitrary and capricious.

We are now in the discovery phase. The plaintiffs and defendants have each submitted their initial discovery requests, and both sides are working on producing documents. Once the discovery process closes, we will be on to summary judgment. 

On the plus side, any delay, like separating these claims, is in our favor because every day that the court does not hold that BLM must remove horses is another day that the horses get to remain on the range. We will keep you updated as this case develops. 

Devils Garden Intervention Litigation

(July 2, 2020) Beginning in 2018, livestock permittees in Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in the Modoc National Forest near Alturas, California, filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service seeking the immediate removal of over 2,000 wild horses from their home on the range in the Modoc National Forest. This would reduce the wild horse population to between 206-402 in the Forest while authorizing over 3,700 cow/calf pairs and 2,900 sheep to graze for six months a year on the public lands there. 

AWHC teamed up with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Ms. Bowers, represented by Eubanks & Associates (formally Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks), to file a motion to intervene in the case. Our goal is to defend the interests of this federally-protected wild horse herd and ensure that the government does not strike an unfair deal with the ranchers that will harm the horses.

As an alternative to the unsustainable roundup and removal of wild horses, AWHC had proposed implementing and funding a pilot fertility control project to humanely reduce population growth rates in the herd, as recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. However, the Forest Service rejected the offer.

The Status of the Case Today:

In August 2019, the court granted our motion to intervene in defense of the mustangs of the Modoc National Forest. After a short delay, the case should now be fully briefed by the end of 2020. You can view all the current legal documents here. We will update you as this case develops. 

Past Intervention Litigation Win:

Brieanah Schwartz is Policy Counsel for the American Wild Horse Campaign. Schwartz received her J.D. from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law in Baltimore, Maryland and graduated with a concentration in Environmental Law. She is now barred in the District of Columbia. Brieanah is responsible for advancing AWHC’s position before Congress and this administration, for producing comments that AWHC submits, and for assisting the litigation teams on all of AWHC’s active cases. A long-time lover of wild horses, she self-published a book with her photography and research on the Cumberland Island wild horses while she attended Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia. She currently resides in the Washington, D.C. area with her horse, Eire, dogs, Lady, Drover, and Dandy, and cat, Pippy.