According to an article in the Elko Daily Press (http://elkodaily.com/news/blm-files-motion-to-dismiss-wild-horse-lawsuit/article_8c5d71aa-fcd1-11e3-b1e4-0019bb2963f4.html), the federal government is seeking to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the BLM’s management of wild horses. This is an issue that is just starting to heat-up and will become an increasingly bigger issue in Utah as well.
ELKO — The federal government responded this week to a lawsuit regarding wild horse management by asking the court to throw the case out.
The Nevada Association of Counties and the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation filed suit in December, arguing that overpopulation of horses was a symptom of the Bureau of Land Management’s negligence to follow the Wild Horse and Burro Act, resulting in damage to the range, wildlife and wild horses.
Elko County pledged to give up to $10,000 to NACO to help pay for the lawsuit, which NACO President Jeff Fontaine had estimated will cost about $90,000.
NACO specifically seeks immediate roundups of excess horses on public land, continual monitoring of horse numbers on herd management areas at least every two months, to discontinue using long-term holding facilities and to “cease interfering with Nevada water rights owned by third parties,” a NACO document states.
Before filing suit, NACO tried to contact the federal government with the goal of reaching a solution but received no reply, according to NACO.
On Tuesday, the Department of the Interior filed a motion to dismiss the complaint in its entirety, making the legal argument that the plaintiffs didn’t challenge any “agency action.”
“Instead, the claim challenges an alleged pattern and practice of conduct, which is not subject to judicial review,” court documents state.
Horse advocates successfully intervened as defendants in the suit, arguing their interests weren’t represented by either side, and also filed a motion last month to dismiss.
“The NACO lawsuit lacks merit and is the latest attempt by ranchers to create a legal facade to give the BLM an excuse to cave in to their interests and remove more mustangs,” Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said in a May 29 statement. “We are hopeful that the court will dismiss this case, which is yet another meritless legal assault on federally protected wild horses and burros by ranchers who view these national icons as competition for cheap, taxpayer-subsidized grazing on our public lands.”
In its motion, the federal defendants wrote that Congress cut funding for the wild horse program, which compounded the problem.
“[E]ven as populations of wild horses have risen nationwide, Congress has curtailed many of the tools that might prevent and mitigate any deleterious effects of the species on local resources,” it states. “Specifically, Congress has decreased funding available to BLM for horse management — thereby limiting BLM’s capacity to remove excess horses — even as it has forbidden BLM from humanely destroying excess horses stored in BLM’s long-term holding faculties.”