December 20, 2014 3:04 pm  •  By BEN NEARY The Associated Press(0) Comments

Wild horse advocacy groups across the country are pushing to intervene in a federal lawsuit the state of Wyoming filed recently against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management accusing the federal agency of not doing enough to reduce wild horse populations.

Two coalitions of horse advocate groups filed papers in federal court in Wyoming last week seeking to enter the state's lawsuit. 

One group includes the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, headquartered in North Carolina, and the other includes Friends of Animals, headquartered in Connecticut.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead claims in the state's lawsuit that the BLM isn't doing enough to control horse numbers. He maintains that having too many wild horses can harm habitat used by wildlife.

“It is my belief and the belief of other Western governors that the BLM does not have the resources to manage wild horses effectively,” Mead said after filing the lawsuit. “By filing suit, it sends a message that wild horse management is a priority and the BLM must be provided the funding necessary to manage them.”

By pushing to intervene in the case, the horse advocate groups are widening their attack on horse-management practices in Wyoming.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and some other groups are pushing a separate federal lawsuit of their own, claiming that the BLM violated federal law by rounding up over 1,200 from three areas in Wyoming this summer.

The groups filed their main brief in their federal lawsuit against the BLM last week.

The agency announced in October that it had rounded up 1,263 wild horses in the Great Divide Basin, Adobe Town and Salt Wells Creek herd management areas.

The areas are in the checkerboard region of southwestern Wyoming, an area where private and federal lands are laid out in alternating sections.

The Rock Springs Grazing Association has pressed for years to reduce grazing on private lands by wild horses. The association has intervened in the groups' lawsuit challenging this summer's roundup.

The BLM had estimated there were 3,771 wild horses in Wyoming before the contested roundup.

In its lawsuit, Wyoming says the horse population after the roundup still exceeded appropriate levels in seven herd management areas by about 475 total horses.

Suzanne Roy, director of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, said Saturday that the future of Wyoming's wild horses is at stake in both cases.

“It's a larger issue of how our public lands are managed and for whom they are managed,” Roy said. “The state is now taking on the Wyoming ranchers' fight against wild horses. We feel strongly we need to stand up for Wyoming's mustangs. And we're prepared to vigorously defend them in court.”

Anne Novak, executive director of Protect Mustangs, issued a statement Saturday saying her group feels compelled to intervene in Wyoming's lawsuit because it believes the BLM isn't protecting America's wild horses and burros as it should.

“BLM's new wipe-out plan is to complain their hands are tied and then invite states and other land grabbers to sue them to round up wild horses — under false claims of overpopulation,” Novak said. “This subterfuge must be stopped.”

Jenni Barnes, staff attorney for Friends of Animals Wildlife Law Program, stated that her group is appalled that Wyoming is pushing to remove even more wild horses from our public lands.

“We all have a right to be involved in decisions about our public lands,” Barnes said. “Yet it appears that Wyoming is trying to bypass this process and make a side deal with BLM to eradicate wild horses.”