Update on FoA’s lawsuit to halt wild horse roundups in northwest Colorado

Update on FoA’s lawsuit to halt wild horse roundups in northwest Colorado

This week Friends of Animals filed a motion to supplement the record in the lawsuit we filed against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell in September of last year to halt further devastating assaults against wild horses in northwest Colorado.

The motion asks the court to admit extra-record evidence regarding the consequences of stress on wild horses detailed in a declaration by Dr. Bruce Nock. Nock has studied and described the intricate physiological events that take place when a wild horse is subject to roundups. His research was available to the BLM before and during its decision-making process, but the agency swept it under the rug.

A violent, frightening, inhumane helicopter roundup of up to 167 wild horses from the West Douglas Herd Area was already underway at the time of FoA’s lawsuit. And the BLM once again contracted with Sun J Livestock, which historically has been abusive during its helicopter roundups—running the wild horses past their point of exhaustion, rushing them into the traps and leaving foals behind.

BLM’s Decision Record authorized the continued removal of wild horses from northwest Colorado for several years as part of its extinction plan.

FoA’s lawsuit states that BLM’s decision—which authorizes the continued removal of wild horses for several years, including helicopter drive trapping, helicopter assisted roping and bait and water trapping—fails to fulfill the agency’s obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act. BLM does not provide a reasonable discussion of, or adequately disclose, the impacts to targeted wild horses themselves, including the likelihood of short and long-term physical, social and behavioral changes associated with roundups and removals.

According to the lawsuit, the intricate physiological events that occur during a wild horses fight or flight reaction to a helicopter round up suggest that these are assaults against wild horses and are not humane as the BLM maintains.

Cases such as these are usually reviewed under a statute called the Administrative Procedure Act, and the court can only consider certain evidence in our case, which is generally limited to what the government provides to the court. In this case we have asked the court to consider additional evidence about the impacts to horses because the government’s completely ignored this evidence.

“The Bureau of Land Management has never really publicly examined the emotional, physical or social impacts to wild horses subjected to helicopter roundups on federal public lands,” said Michael Harris, director of Friends of Animals’ Denver-based Wildlife Law Program. “Coloradans should demand they do so before some of our last wild horses are subjected to such devastating physical and emotional pain.

“The BLM’s Decision Record states that helicopter roundups may occur over the next couple years. Winning this lawsuit could have an impact on roundups in the Douglas area in the future. Moreover, we at FoA believe that once the public realizes the significant trauma and pain that these wild horses go through at the hands of BLM, there will be stronger public support for wild horses and for their protection on public lands like there was back in 1971 when the Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed.”