By THE CLOUD FOUNDATION
To The Desert Independent
January 6, 2016
BOISE, Idaho – On Monday, January 4, The Cloud Foundation (TCF), the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), Return to Freedom, and Virginia Marie Hudson filed a lawsuit in the Idaho District Court against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), charging that the agency’s plan to permanently sterilize the entire herd of wild horses in the Saylor Creek Herd Management Area (HMA) violates the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (“Wild Horse Act”) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The sterilization plan was approved as part of the BLM’s Jarbidge Resource Management Plan (RMP), which was finalized on September 2, 2015.
“This case challenges a controversial and precedent-setting plan by the BLM to sterilize an entire herd of wild horses in the Saylor Creek Herd Management Area – an action that will destroy the natural, wild, and free-roaming behavior of these individual horses, as well as the social organization and long-term viability of the herd,” said Nick Lawton of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Eubanks, the public interest law firm that is representing the advocates. “This unprecedented and invasive management proposal is a gross violation of the BLM’s legal mandate to protect wild horses as an ‘integral part of the natural system of the public lands,’ and sets a terrible precedent that threatens the viability of wild horse herds across the West.”
The BLM’s plan to sterilize the Saylor Creek wild horses also harms the interests of American citizens, here represented by Virginia Marie Hudson, as castrating and spaying the entire herd would impair the public’s ability to enjoy and observe the wild horses' natural social behaviors.
The complaint charges that the BLM, through its Jarbidge RMP, authorized the precedent-setting drastic action of removing and sterilizing all the wild horses in the 95,000-acre Saylor Creek HMA without presenting evidence of any damage to the range caused by the Saylor Creek herd and without making a determination that “excess” horses are present, as required by law. Additionally, the BLM failed entirely to analyze significant impacts that this action will have on individual horses and the herd as a whole.
“The BLM’s plan to sterilize this entire herd of wild horses will fundamentally change the behaviors that define these animals. What’s more, if BLM succeeds in sterilizing this herd, the agency will likely expand its sterilization campaign throughout the West,” Lawton concluded. “This lawsuit aims to preserve the behavior and character that make these animals precious to the American people, to keep wild horses wild.”
Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation concluded, “If this proposed action is unchanged, it will result in the wholesale loss of this herd and an irreparable loss of a part of our national heritage for this and future generations. This is unacceptable.”
The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. Cloud is the subject of Foundation founder Ginger Kathrens' groundbreaking PBS/Nature documentaries.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.
Return to Freedom (RTF) is a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, advocacy, education and conservation, and also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA. It is also AWHPC’s founding organization.
Virginia Marie Hudson is a private citizen and mustang owner who enjoys visiting federally-protected wild horse herds in Herd Management Areas throughout the West, including Saylor Creek.
The plaintiffs in this case are being represented by Nick Lawton and William S. Eubanks II of Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, LLP.