Last year Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit to halt the Bureau of Land Management’s Ten-Year Wild Horse Roundup Decision that authorizes rounding up and permanently removing approximately 9,525 wild horses from Antelope and Triple B wild horse complexes in Nevada. The plan also authorizes years of further roundups, forcibly drugging mares with fertility control and castrating stallions, some of whom will be returned to the range.

This case not only represents obvious egregious abuses of wild horses, it also constitutes BLM’s latest tactic for its wild horse extinction scheme—eliminating public participation in future decisions—which FoA is continuing to challenge. 

“We have challenged this new policy in two different courts. Public participation is, and should remain the hallmark of agency decision making,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program. “This week, we have asked one of those courts—the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals—to overturn BLM’s anti-public involvement policy, to restore public access to important information pertaining to America’s wild horses, and to once again give the public the ability to fully participate in decisions related to horses on public lands”

BLM seems to think that if the law does not support its war on horses, then it will instead work to eliminate further public participation in future decisions.

“If BLM succeeds with its plan, the agency will no longer provide the public with advance notice of its decisions to roundup wild horses or commit to any additional opportunity for public participation in the agency’s analysis of this wild horse populations in the West,” Harris said. “In other words, Friends of Animals and the public will be stripped of their right to comment upon future decisions or avail themselves of the right to judicial review in court.”

Friends of Animals is adamant this is the wrong way for BLM to get itself out of the wild horse problem it created through years of mismanagement. Since the passage of the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, wild horses have lost 41 percent of their habitat—more than 20 million acres.

Of the 245 million acres of public land managed by the BLM, 155 million (virtually all BLM land outside of Alaska) is open to cattle and sheep grazing. By contrast, wild horses are restricted to just 26.9 million acres, which they must share with cattle and sheep. A survey of 50 wild horse herd management areas showed that approximately 82.5% of forage was reserved for cattle and sheep grazing, while just 17.5% of the forage was allocated to the horses themselves.

“Instead of fulfilling its legal mandate to provide a home for these amazing wild animals on federal public lands, BLM instead caters to ranchers, oil and gas developers and others who want to eliminate wild horse populations completely,” Harris said. “Fortunately, Friends of Animals has been able to use the law and the legal system to fight BLM as it seeks to decimate America’s wild horses.”