When you donate on #GivingTuesday, you’re helping Friends of Animals continue the march for the last of America’s wild horses. We are truly thankful for all of the wild horse victories we’ve had, which only bolster our efforts to protect America’s wild horses and the public lands they depend on for survival going forward. Here’s a look back:
1. Gruesome wild mare sterilization research project halted
The Bureau of Land Management withdrew its decision to conduct unnecessary, gruesome mare sterilization research on 225 wild mares, including at least 100 pregnant mares, imprisoned at the Wild Horse Corral Facility in Oregon after Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit on Aug. 3, 2016. The BLM’s decision was formally vacated by the Interior Board of Land Appeals Sept. 9. Despite extending its public comment period on this so-called research, and receiving thousands of comments in opposition of it, the BLM, in its eagerness to appease cattle and sheep ranchers who despise wild horses, had approved of the project. What was so appalling about this case is BLM made the decision despite acknowledging in its 2016 Environmental Assessment that the three methods of sterilization—oviarectomy via colpotomy; tubal litigation and laser ablation—would likely cause death or necessary euthanasia and that the sterilization procedures would not stop unless the major complication rate for any gestational stage group exceeded 20 percent. In no uncertain terms, that meant that the BLM could destroy, or kill, up to 45 wild horses before stopping the experiments.
2. Wyoming’s anti-wild horse agenda stopped
In December of 2014, the governor of the state of Wyoming, Matt Mead, tried to sue the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to force the agency to round up hundreds of wild horses from public land in the state, and in October, a federal appeals court basically told him to pound sand by dismissing the lawsuit. Friends of Animals intervened in the case to support BLM’s decision to reject the governor’s request, and while we see this as a positive outcome, we are still appalled and concerned by the anti-wild horse attitude of the governor and the state of Wyoming, which are beholden to cattle and sheep ranchers.
3. Montana’s beloved Pryor Mountain Herd no longer under assault
The beloved Pryor Mountain wild horses of Montana, the last wild horse herd in the state, will no longer be assaulted by Bureau of Land Management roundups following Friends of Animals’ victory in July of 2016. U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters ruled in favor of Friends of Animals’ in a lawsuit we brought against the agency last year when it announced the round-up and permanent removal of 20 young wild horses between the ages of 1 and 3 in the Pryor Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) and the continual removal of six to 12 wild horses on an annual basis. Judge Watters’ decision recognizes that BLM was removing wild horses from the Pryor Mountains before considering a reasonable alternative—determining what the appropriate population for the area is and whether the range could potentially support more wild horses. Judge Waters also ruled in Friends of Animals’ favor that BLM could not ignore its promise to the public to do a more thorough analysis of the Appropriate Management Level (AML) before removing wild horses.
4. FoA stops forced drugging of Nevada’s Pine Nut Herd, twice
Because of pressure from Friends of Animals and the threat of legal action, in May of 2016 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revoked its April 3, 2014 Decision Record for its misguided Fish Springs Wild Horses PZP Pilot Project. This decision had authorized a public-private partnership with the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates to forcibly drug mares of the beloved Pine Nut Herd with the fertility control pesticide PZP.
When FoA learned the project was underway, it sprang into action because the project suffered the same legal deficiencies Judge Larry R. Hicks’ found last year with the agency’s 2014 removal and fertility control plan.
“We are extremely happy to have put a stop to the forced drugging of Pine Nut mares with the fertility control pesticide PZP for a second time,” said FoA President Priscilla Feral. “Still, it is appalling that BLM would go to such efforts to not only avoid compliance with the law, but to hide from the public that PZP has long-term, negative impacts to the lives of wild horses.”
“There are so many problems with BLM’s decision to recommence the 2014 Pilot Project that it is difficult to know where to start,” said Michael Harris, FoA’s Wildlife Law Program director.Most importantly, Harris says, the decision to arm local landowners with long rifles and PZP-filled darts to go after Pine Nut mares who might wander from the designated Herd Management Area onto private lands near Fish Springs directly conflicts with a 2015 court decision aimed at limiting management actions directed at the Pine Nut wild horses until BLM complies with federal law.
That decision was issued in February 2015 in an action brought by FoA challenging BLM’s Dec. 19, 2014 decision to round-up and remove approximately 332 Pine Nut wild horses and to PZP all mares one-year of age and older.
5. Salt River wild horses to remain free
Because of ongoing Friends of Animals’ litigation (other groups bailed and dropped their lawsuits), the U.S. Forest Service filed a declaration on Dec. 14, 2015 with the court to withdraw its July 31, 2015 notice, which classified Salt River wild horses in the Tonto National Forest in Arizona as “unauthorized livestock” and authorized their “impoundment” so they could be auctioned off, sold privately or disposed of. Our Wildlife Law Program Director Michael Harris said about the case: “Friends of Animals is able to dismiss this case because we have been able to achieve a legally binding withdrawal of the roundup notice. This is huge. We feel that it was important that it was legally binding because we wanted to make sure that Friends of Animals, and our members, could rest easy that the U.S. Forest Service wasn’t just going to go in at another time and round these animals up under that notice.” FoA had filed a lawsuit in August of 2015 against the U.S. Forest Service to stop the round-up and permanent removal of wild horses in Tonto National Forest in Arizona.
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