Montana’s wild horses to have their day in court

Montana’s wild horses to have their day in court

A preliminary injunction hearing has been set for 9 a.m. July 29 in Billings, Mont., after Friends of Animals (FoA) filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to stop 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). 

A victory on July 29 would halt the BLM in its tracks, preventing the worst government agency from further decimating this herd by its Aug. 3 deadline.

“The genetic viability of the Pryor Mountain herd is particularly vulnerable as the mares have been forcibly drugged with the fertility control pesticide since 2000,” said Priscilla Feral, president of FoA. “This herd needs to be protected from more violations. We weren’t going to stand by and not challenge this Montana BLM, which won’t be happy until there are just a handful of wild horses left to serve as lawn ornaments for tourists. That is the scheme we are trying to avert with this injunction.”

The lawsuit was filed June 26. 

The lawsuit states that in reaching the Pryor Mountain Removal Decision, the BLM violated the Free-Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act by authorizing the permanent removal of wild horses prior to making a proper determination that the wild horses were “excess”; failing to consider the recommendations of independent scientists in the field of biology and ecology; and failing to recalculate the appropriate management level (AML) for the Pryor Mountain HMA. The defendants also failed to fulfill their obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, consider reasonable alternatives and fully evaluate the impacts and alternatives to the proposed roundup.

“The BLM has based the Pryor Mountain Removal Decision on an outdated 2009 Herd Management Area Plan that established an AML of 90-120 wild horses,” said Jenni Barnes, staff attorney for FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “The AML was based on a 2007 range evaluation, which the BLM was supposed to review on an annual basis. It was not intended to be a onetime determination but rather a fluid process where adjustments are made based upon environmental changes and management needs. There is no indication that BLM has re-calculated the AML since its 2009 decision.”

Furthermore, BLM’s Preliminary Environmental Assessment failed to consider the cumulative impacts of this action with other wild horse management activities, such as the use of the fertility control pesticide, which the BLM has been using on the Pryor Mountain mares since 2001.

When the Humane Society obtained EPA registration for PZP in 2012, the organization never provided evidence that PZP doesn’t have negative side effects…it just provided information about the efficacy of PZP and actually requested waivers for most of the studies ordinarily required from an applicant seeking pesticide registration—including a toxicity study, ecological effects and environmental fate guideline study. The majority of research submitted by HSUS was published by Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick, a veterinarian who manufactures PZP, and did not consider the biological, social and behavioral effects the drug can have on wild horses.

More recent research has demonstrated repeated applications of PZP can cause physical damage to treated mares; it is not completely reversible; it can increase mortality in foals post-PZP effectiveness; and it interferes with herd cohesion, which is critical to the overall health of wild horses. In addition, preventing mares from producing foals can create a genetic bottleneck that may ultimately extinguish the species as a whole.

“The BLM has also failed to analyze the concerns of its own geneticist about the declining genetic diversity of the Pryor Mountain wild horses or to consider the positive impacts of wild horses and the benefits of allowing the population to self-regulate,” Barnes said.  

 

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