BLM gallops ahead with wild horse eradication plan amid ongoing litigation  

Local wildlife photographer Norm Williams snapped this image of wild horses in Lassen County. He said, “These horses are in excellent shape and shine like a new penny.”

On June 13, 2024, Eubanks & Associates — on behalf of petitioners American Wild Horse ConservationAnimal Welfare InstituteWestern Watersheds Project and other petitioners —  notified the U.S. District Court of Wyoming that the Bureau of Land Management is rapidly moving forward with its plan to eradicate more than 4,000 wild horses, despite previously arguing to the court that the groups’ lawsuit is not timely because no final removal decision had yet been issued.

The filing came less than a week after the BLM released a scoping notice for an environmental assessment to implement contested Resource Management Plan amendments. These amendments changed the status of the Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin Herd Management Areas to Herd Areas, labeling 4,876 wild horses as “excess” and requiring their removal. The scoping notice stated that removals could start as early as Oct. 1.

The petitioners argue in the pending lawsuit that the BLM’s decision to amend two Resource Management Plans was unlawful. In response, the BLM argued that the argument was not yet ripe for adjudication by the court, absent a specific removal decision from the agency to implement the amended Resource Management Plans.

“The new filing underscores our grave concerns about the Bureau of Land Management’s disregard for the legal process and the welfare of wild horses. Despite ongoing litigation, the BLM is pushing forward with a plan that would devastate these historic populations,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC. “This plan not only undermines the spirit of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act but also jeopardizes the future of these cherished symbols of the American West.”

“The BLM’s aggressive insistence on removing these federally protected wild horses is not only unnecessary but also blatantly disregards the legal protections to which these animals are afforded under the law. In issuing the scoping notice for the looming eradication of horses from these public lands, the BLM has only reinforced why we must urgently hold the agency accountable,” said Joanna Grossman, PhD, Equine Program Director and Senior Policy Advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute.

“The BLM’s plan to eradicate whole herds of Wyoming’s wild horses from lands that show no evidence of horse-caused degradation reflects a troubling preoccupation with maximizing cattle and sheep numbers on public lands with total disregard for the public interest,” said Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “This shortsighted focus on maximizing livestock  undermines biodiversity as well as the integrity of our public lands

“Accordingly, while this case was plainly ripe before now, BLM’s new scoping statement that makes clear wild horses will be forcibly, permanently removed from the public range in several months as a result of the RMP amendments challenged here only further underscores that this case is justiciable and cannot get any riper,” wrote Eubanks & Associates in the notice filed on behalf of the Petitioners.

Oral arguments in this case are scheduled for July 16 in Wyoming. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Dr. Chad Hanson, and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl.

About American Wild Horse Conservation
American Wild Horse Conservation is the nation’s leading nonprofit wild horse conservation organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno. 

The Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere: in agriculture, in commerce, in our communities, in research, and in the wild. Follow us onFacebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

Western Watersheds Project
Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation group with over 14,000 members and supporters, as well as field offices across the western U.S. We work to influence and improve public lands management throughout the West with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250 million acres of western public lands, including harm to ecological, biological, cultural, historic, archeological, scenic resources, wilderness values, roadless areas, Wilderness Study Areas and designated Wilderness.

Eubanks & Associates
Eubanks & Associates, PLLC is a public interest environmental law firm that specializes in strategic impact litigation in federal courts throughout the United States.