The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn a policy change Friends of Animals challenged in a lawsuit that would have allowed the agency to sell two dozen wild horses at a time with no questions asked to get around a Congressional ban on slaughter.

FoA filed a lawsuit against BLM in August after it quietly issued a change in its sales policy last spring that removed many of the procedural safeguards put in place to prevent the sale of wild horses to individuals who seek to resell them to slaughter. Prior to the change, a buyer could only purchase four wild horses or burros in a six-month period. The restrictions were implemented in 2013 after it was discovered that a Colorado livestock buyer sent more than 1,700 mustangs to slaughter. 

But in May 2018, the agency quietly changed that and FoA filed a lawsuit alleging that BLM broke the law because such a policy is subject to notice and public comment; it’s actions were an arbitrary and capricious reversal of BLM’s past policies; and the new policy violated the 2018 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which specifies that Congressional appropriations cannot be used toward the destruction of healthy, unadopted, wild horses and burros in the care of the BLM or its contractors or for the sale of wild horses and burros that results in their destruction for processing into commercial products.

Wednesday, BLM issued a directive to its field managers reinstating the previous policy and its safeguards.

“FoA has fought hard to stop BLM’s devious new policy that had turned a blind eye to the destruction of America’s wild horses by selling them without limitation to those who only want to profit off their deaths,’’ said Michael Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “It’s very gratifying to get this policy overturned.’’

FoA has repeatedly challenged BLM on its round up of wild horses from herd management areas.

Habitat loss from cattle grazing, mining, energy exploration and urban expansion, as well as removal and sterilization by BLM, are pushing wild horses to extinction. About 50,000 wild horses are being held by the agency in its detainment facilities.

Priscilla Feral, president of FoA, said the organization will continue to keep a close eye on BLM’s actions and protect the horses.

“A vast majority of Americans—including members of Congress—believe that wild horses should not be mistreated by BLM, which caters to ranching and energy interests,’’ she said. Six states have already lost their wild horse populations: Missouri, Iowa, Arkansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. If we lose them, we lose a piece of the untamed wilderness that define the West.”