But the judge then ruled, "As to Leigh's First Amendment challenge to the closure of public lands during the gather, the court shall grant Leigh's temporary restraining order. Leigh argues that a blanket closure of 27,000 acres of public land on which the Tuscarora Gather is going to take place is a prior restraint on her First Amendment rights because she will be unable to observe and report on the health of the horses and the BLM's management of the gather. The court agrees [and]... finds that the blanket closure ... is unconstitutional". The BLM can, however, draft a "more reasonable closure".
"The court's order in no way [a]ffects the BLM's closure of the airspace above the 27,000 acres of public land. The court finds the closure of airspace to be constitutional and necessary". (A copy of the Order is attached below for downloading.)
In deciding to allow the roundup to proceed now instead of later, Judge Hicks was persuaded by BLM's last minute "review" filed yesterday by a BLM team that claims the horses dying or suffering from dehydration or water intoxication were in that condition prior to the roundup. The "review" states that a BLM contractor found Tuscarora wild horses without water and said "the next 24-78 hours is critical". BLM recommended rounding up as many horses as possible and warned of a "potentially high mortality" rate. Horses showing signs of dehydration on the range would be left to die.
Leigh pointed out, however, that there was no mention by BLM of a drought or dehydrated horses in the Tuscarora HMAs until after her lawsuit was filed. She disputed the "hastily assembled" "review" by BLM:
The Defendants' admit they do not grasp the issue causing the high mortality rate of the horses they run into catch pens. We discover they had not calculated a drought by mid-July or that horses would run out of available water by mid-July although they had studied the probable effects of their intended Gather the several months preceding the Gather, beginning in January 2010. No other BLM document discusses or addresses "drought" for range management in the year 2010 in the Owynee, Rock Creek or Little Humboldt areas. It was in fact, only after suit was filed did these emergency conditions become newly revealed.Leigh offered to visit the herds and attempt to verify BLM's claim a roundup must proceed immediately because of drought.
At least Leigh and other members of the media and public will be allowed to monitor BLM's roundup.
For more on this case and the Tuscarora roundup, read Animal Law Coalition's report below.
Update July 15, 2010: Nevada federal District Court Judge Larry Hicks has issued an injunction prohibiting BLM from proceeding with the Tuscarora roundup.
The BLM had temporarily suspended its Tuscarora roundup of wild horses initiated in the intense summer heat just days ago on July 10, 2010.
BLM halted the roundup after public outcry over the deaths of horses now said to number 12 including 3 foals.
Based on BLM's representation the roundup would not begin again until Sunday, July 19, 2010, the judge set a hearing on July 14 on a motion for restraining order filed by plaintiff Laura Leigh to delay the roundup until August and compel BLM to allow access to the roundup by the media and the public.
The judge explained that he was then informed despite BLM's representation to the court, BLM Director Bob Abbey had issued an order for an "emergency" roundup of the horses prior to the hearing.
Judge Hicks ordered, "Based on this change in the BLM's position, the court finds it necessary to grant an immediate injunction preventing the Tuscarora gathering of wild horses until further order by the court."Go here for more on the planned Tuscarora roundup of 1,438 wild horses in the 482,191 acres of the Owyhee, Rock Creek, Little Humboldt Herd Management Areas. In proceeding with the roundup on July 10, BLM basically ignored thousands of citizens who submitted letters and emails in protest during a period of public comment on the planned roundup.
An appeal of BLM's decision to round up wild horses in the Tuscarora HMAs has been filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals by In Defense of Animals and Craig Downer, a wildlife ecologist. BLM, however, can resume the roundup while the appeal is pending.
The dehydration, the deaths, the cruelty (cont'd)