Court Allows Wild Horse Group’s Challenge to BLM’s Zero Out Policy
June 28, 2011 – A federal court rejected the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) request to dismiss or limit a suit brought by a consortium of wild horse advocacy groups and concerned citizens to save the West Douglas wild horse herd. Although the BLM withdrew their 2010 plans to decimate this northwest Colorado wild horse herd early in 2011, the advocacy groups have remained vigilant in their stance to have the Court decide whether BLM has the legal authority to zero out a herd. By her ruling, Judge Rosemary Collyer agreed that Plaintiffs could proceed with this claim and stated, “The Bureau of Land Management’s 2005 West Douglas Herd Amendment to the White River Resource Management Plan violates the Wild Horses Act because it restates the decision by the BLM to eradicate the ‘West Douglas herd’ of wild horses. The 2005 Amendment directed the BLM to eliminate the herd ‘at the earliest practicable date’ and BLM’s recent withdrawal of its decision to gather the herd in 2011 does not affect any change to the allegedly improper decision to eliminate the herd as soon as practicable.”
The battle over the West Douglas herd is nearly two decades old, and only through the efforts of concerned citizens and organizations have the horses been saved from the BLM’s desire to remove them all from their homelands. In 2009, concerned citizens and organizations won the first case in the United States against BLM’s practices of eliminating wild horse herds when Judge Collyer set aside BLM’s 2008 roundup plans. In 2010 advocates again sued the BLM and the BLM withdrew its plans to decimate the herd.
“The court agreed that we have the right to challenge the decision to zero out the herd, originally made in the 2005 Amendment, despite the fact that the BLM has decided not to perform a round up and removal in 2010,” explained Bruce Wagman of Schiff Hardin LLP, legal lead for the groups. “BLM has been trying to avoid the issue with self-serving tactics, but the court found the BLM’s decision to hold off on this year’s gather ‘does not affect any change to the allegedly improper decision to eliminate the herd as soon as practicable.’ This is of course exactly what we argued.”