by Nicole Rivard
The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn its decision to conduct unnecessary, gruesome mare sterilization research on 225 wild mares, including at least 100 pregnant mares, imprisoned at the Wild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.
While the BLM’s decision was formally vacated by the Interior Board of Land Appeals this morning, FoA’s lawyers are working to make sure the withdrawal is legal and binding.
“This is good news for Oregon’s wild horses and we are bolstered by this victory,” said Jennifer Best, assistant director of Friends of Animals’ Wildlife Law Program. “The Bureau of Land Management is obligated to protect wild horses under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and has absolutely no authority whatsoever to experiment on wild horses with new and risky surgeries. In fact, Congress has expressly prohibited the use of funds for activities that would kill wild horses as this experiment may have done. Furthermore, wild horses who have been ripped from the range and their families and remain imprisoned in holding facilities have lost their freedom, but they did not lose their status as wild horses under the WHBA, and the protection provided by such status.”
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.
“Not only was the proposed project horrific, it would have been an unnecessary waste of American taxpayers’ money because there is not an excess of wild horses on public lands; there is an excess of cattle and sheep being allowed to graze on public lands,” said Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals. “We are adamant cattle and sheep be removed from Herd Management Areas and that ecological zones, free from exploitation and management, be designated for America’s wild horses before they are managed to extinction by the BLM.”
FoA intervenes; judge upholds USFWS’ ban on elephant trophy imports from Zimbabwe
On Sept. 30, a D.C. federal judge upheld the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2014 decision to ban imports of sport-hunted African elephant trophies from Zimbabwe, striking down a challenge brought by the Safari Club and the National Rifle Association.
U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth granted summary judgment to the government on most of its assertions that it had followed the Administrative Procedure Act when determining that sport hunting in Zimbabwe would not enhance the survival of the elephants, a requisite condition for allowing such imports under a special rule that the USFWS enacted in 1978 under the Endangered Species Act.
The hunters had argued that if the USFWS wanted to ban the imports, it needed to make an “affirmative finding” that sport hunting in the country would not aid elephants’ survival, not simply that the regulator “lacked” information to conclude so.
The judge also struck down the hunters’ arguments that the USFWS should have solicited public
comment after deciding to keep the enhancement finding requirement, even though in 1994 the requirement was removed from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international treaty.
The USFWS had first announced that it would suspend trophy imports from Zimbabwe in April 2014. The service expressed concern about the management, funding and resources of wildlife authorities in Zimbabwe, noting a lack of data on the population numbers in the country. After receiving more information from the Zimbabwe government, the USFWS enacted its final ban in
July 2014. In March 2015, the service again found that trophy hunting in Zimbabwe could not be shown to enhance the survival of the species, and later that month Judge Lamberth
allowed Friends of Animals and the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force to intervene in the suit.