Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Wyoming against the Bureau of Land Management for its plan to eliminate wild horses from more than one million acres of federal public lands in the southwestern part of the state. The BLM’s illegal plan—an attempt to appease the meat industry, specifically the Rocks Springs Grazing Association—would zero out the wild horse populations in the Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin herd management areas and gut their numbers in the Adobe Town HMA.

“The tragedy of wild horse roundups exists because the BLM is devoted to turning public lands into feedlots for cows and sheep to appease the meat industry,” said Priscilla Feral president of Friends of Animals. “Friends of Animals finds this morally and ecologically reprehensible, as wild horses are driven off lands to leave the bulk of water, forage and space for doomed domestic animals.”

BLM claims there are an estimated 1,003 horses in Salt Wells Creek; 875 in Great Divide Basin; and 1,693 in Adobe Town.

FoA’s lawsuit alleges that the BLM violated multiple federal acts set up to protect wild horses by authorizing the permanent removal of hundreds of wild horses from the Wyoming Checkerboard, where public lands are interspersed with private parcels like those owned by the RSGA.

“Not only could this extreme, reckless decision be devastating to thousands of wild horses across southwest Wyoming, it could also set a dangerous precedent that allows BLM to ignore the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which was intended to protect wild horses on federal public lands,” added Jennifer Best, director of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “BLM is not above the law.”

The lawsuit points out that nothing in the WHBA allows BLM to respond to removal requests from private landowners by removing wild horses from public lands and treating public lands as private lands.

“The truly reprehensible thing is BLM does not even try to hide that it’s acting without authority and for the benefit of private interests,” Best said. “The agency admits that there exists sufficient forage, water, cover and space for the wild horses in these HMAs.”

Adding insult to injury is that at least 14,448 cattle and 40,231 sheep are allowed to graze where the BLM wants to wipe out wild horses.

“You can’t have a government agency working for the meat industry. What the BLM and ranchers are doing to wild horses is criminal,” Feral said.