Friends of Animals has filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management for its decision to reduce the size and slow the growth of California’s Twin Peaks wild horse herd. The 10-year plan calls for several detestable approaches, including rounding up by helicopter-drive trapping and bait-and-water trapping, as well as fertility control and castration to reduce the herd to the low end of its so-called appropriate management level of 448 wild horses on approximately 800,000 acres.
“The scope of this 10-year Decision is unprecedented in this area and authorizes rounding up and removing more than 80 percent of the wild horses from the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area as well as castrating an undisclosed number of stallions,” explained Jennifer Best, assistant legal director for Friends of Animals. “With these long-range plans, BLM is trying to avoid further scrutiny of its overall plan to zero out wild horse populations on public lands and Friends of Animals will not stand by and do nothing.”
Adding insult to injury, 1,060 cattle and 13,000 sheep are allowed to graze in the Twin Peaks grazing allotment.
“BLM keeps trying to paint wild horses as an abundant population that is damaging to our public lands, when the culprits are doomed cattle and sheep,” Best said. “This decision shows how BLM is once again putting the interest of ranchers ahead of a balanced ecosystem that includes wild horses and other wild animals.”
The 10-year decision was issued pursuant to a new rule that eliminates the opportunity for the public to review or comment on the BLM’s decisions. The changes not only drastically alter the way BLM is managing horses in the Twin Peaks area, they violate the law in several respects, the lawsuit states.
First, the decision violates the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act requirement that BLM make a determination that such animals are in excess before removing wild horses and burros, that removal is necessary and that such determination be based on current information; violates BLM’s obligations to conduct management activities at the minimal feasible level; and violates its obligations under NEPA to: (1) prepare an environmental impact statement, (2) consider reasonable alternatives, and (3) fully evaluate the impacts and alternatives to the proposed decisions.
Furthermore, the BLM issued the new rule in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act because it didn’t provide the public notice of the new rule before implementing it, solicit comments on the new rule as required by the APA or offer a reasonable explanation for the rule change.
“BLM’s decision thwarts public participation and puts BLM on a path to continually harass wild horses and burros behind closed doors for the next 10 years,” Best said. “Friends of Animals hopes the lawsuit puts an end to this criminal practice and holds BLM accountable to the public and to its legal obligation to protect America’s wild horses and burros.”