Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Lawsuit Filed to Challenge Triple B Roundup

Animal Law Coalition
A lawsuit has been filed to try to stop BLM's planned round up and removal of at least 1,726 wild horses from 1,682,998 acres of the Triple B, Maverick Medicine and Antelope Valley herd management areas (HMAs) in eastern Nevada.


wild horsesPlaintiff The Cloud Foundation describes, "The wild horses of the Triple B, Maverick Medicine and Antelope Valley HMAs are free-roaming on the remote high desert mountains and valleys of east central and northeast Nevada--north of Ely, south of Elko on the Utah border. They have been characterized as a diverse, colorful, intermingling herd with some possessing old mustang origins. Many wild horses descend from an old Shoshone Indian herd known for pintos and paints, as well as a number of medicine hats, horses sacred to Native Americans".
Only 472 horses would remain after the Triple B roundup, and the mares would all be treated with an immunocontraceptive drug, PZP, to prevent pregnancy for up to 2 years.  This would leave an unnatural sex ratio of 60% male.
46,000 cows and sheep would be allowed to remain to graze.

According to the Bureau of Land Management, the 1,726 wild horses, with about 975 acres per horse, are destroying the range. But apparently 46,000 cows and sheep are having no effect at all on the condition of the range or water. The BLM refused even to consider the effect of so many cows and sheep on the range, let alone reducing their numbers.

As the Complaint filed by Plaintiffs The Cloud Foundation, Craig Downer and Lorna Moffat explains, "Those that are not re-released (about 1,700) would be transported by big rig trucks to long term holding facilities in the Midwest of the United States, where they would live out their lives in confined, zoo-like conditions, separated by sex or sterilized, wild and free-roaming no more.
"Family members would be permanently separated-stallions and mares from each other, and mares and stallions from their foals. Long-term family bonds would be forever severed.  Incarcerated in long-term holding facilities in the Midwest, stallions would be gelded, mares would typically be separated from the gelded stallions, and the acres per wild horse in these fenced facilities would be only a tiny fraction of what it is in their natural homeland in the HMA."

The BLM is required to justify its brutal roundups and removal of wild horses and burros from the range in Environmental Assessments called EAs. Under the National Environmental Policy Act, "whether by Environmental Impact Statement or Environmental Assessment, the agency must ‘study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal...'" 42 U.S.C. §4332(E). The implementing regulations provide that this consideration of all reasonable alternatives is "the heart of" the environmental analysis. 40 CFR §1502.14.

EAs when issued in cases recommending roundups of wild horses and burros are typically cookie cutter reports go something like this: The few wild horses and burros, as in this case, are causing degradation of the range and water sources; the range cannot support the horses and most or all are "excess" which must be removed.

Typically, these EAs fail to mention the numbers of livestock that are more likely the culprit of any range degradation or lack of water. There are any number of cases where the evidence establishes that, in fact, the range can support the few wild horses that under the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, 16 U.S.C. §§1331 et seq., are supposed to be protected from "capture", "harassment" and "death" and managed at "the minimal feasible level". Only "excess" horses, those that represent an overpopulation, can be removed. The goal is to maintain a "thriving ecological balance".

In this case the Decision Record ("DR"), Finding of No Significant Impact ("FONSI"), and Final EA ("FEA") were issued on May 17, 2011. True to form, BLM claims the few horses are degrading the range. As the plaintiffs' point out, "the BLM [fails to] explain how any noncompliance with land standards ...is not primarily the result of livestock grazing, which is about eight times higher and more intensive than grazing from wild horses". Complaint, par. 36.

The roundup was to have begun by now but the BLM delayed it pending a July 14, 2011 hearing before the Nevada federal District Court on the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the roundup and removal.   
(read complete article here)

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