Press Release from Habitat for Horses Advisory Council

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BLM’s Plans to Remove Entire West Douglas Wild Horse Herd Challenged

Hope for the West Douglas Herd ~ Photo by Terry Fitch

HOUSTON, (HfHAC) – On September 28th, 2010 plaintiff Colorado Wild Horse & Burro Coalition (CWBC), supported by Habitat for Horses Advisory Council (HfHAC) and Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), filed a motion to reopen the case and for contempt of court in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the Secretary of the Department of Interior Ken Salazar. On August 5, 2009, Judge Collyer of that court issued an order prohibiting the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from engaging in the illegal removal of wild horses in the West Douglas Herd Area in Colorado, rejecting BLM’s claim of discretion to remove wild horses without a determination that they were “excess”; invalidating the BLM’s 2008 Gather Plan to the extent it authorized the removal of wild horses; and finding illegal the BLM’s decision to manage these horses outside of their traditional range. The BLM has now announced they are going to do just what this Court said they could not. As if the Order was never entered, and relying on the very same 2008 Gather Plan and other documents this Court previously ruled inadequate, the BLM has again declared it will undertake the exact same actions that the Court’s Order prohibited. (Coincidently, the following day, the BLM promptly changed the date of the West Douglas roundup from October 4th, 2010 to October 20th, 2010).

This contempt motion was immediately followed by a new lawsuit the following day (September 29th). The legal team, headed up by Schiff Hardin’s San Francisco office, filed for the Plaintiffs Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition (CWBC), Habitat for Horses (HfH), Front Range Equine Rescue (FRER), The Cloud Foundation (TCF), Barbara Flores, Toni Moore and Dr. Don Moore collectively against Ken Salazar, Robert Abbey and Kent Walter over the same proposed West Douglas Wild Horse roundup. Again, this additional complaint was supported by HfHAC and FRER, and is an effort to stop the unnecessary, illegal and inhumane treatment of the wild and free horses of Colorado.

R.T. Fitch, volunteer Executive Director of the co-funding organization Habitat for Horses Advisory Council said, “The BLM has stated its intention to completely wipe out the West Douglas herd as far back as 1980; last year this very court stopped that process stating that the BLM needs to prove that these horses are over populated and excess. 86 horses on 123,387 acres of public land does not meet that test. The BLM’s arrogant plan to totally destroy this herd is in clear contempt of this court’s order.”

The complaint brings to bear four (4) extensive and detailed counts against all of the defendants.

1.) Violations of the Wild Horse Act

2.) Violations of National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

3.) Violations of the Information Quality Act (IQA)

4.) Violations of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA)

Overall the 27 page complaint clearly lays out the details of the BLM’s total disregard for lawfully protecting not only the habitat of the wild horses but also the very lives of the horses that they are tasked, by law, to defend. Outdated data, incorrect numbers and lack of concrete science currently permeate the BLM’s decision process used to totally remove wild horse herds from their designated public lands.

When Jerry Finch, founder and President of HfH (not to be confused with HfHAC) was asked his thoughts on this legal effort he responded;

“Americans have long watched the destruction of our wild horses by the BLM and have complained time and time again. Our elected leaders have turned their backs on us and simply walked away, ignoring our pleas. Sadly, this seems to be the only way to get their attention.”

“It’s time to look at the big picture of what is going on here.” stated Vicki Tobin,Equine Welfare Alliance Vice President of the (EWA) “HfHAC has been hard at work to do just that and I am proud to be affiliated not only with them but all of the other fine organizations represented in this case.”

“We have only just hit the starter button on this machine,” added R.T. Fitch, “We are not going away.”

Habitat for Horses Advisory Council is a registered non-profit 501c4 corporation comprised of a volunteer seated council whose singular mission is to protect and ensure fair representation of American Horses and Burros in commercial, legislative and judicial venues. HfHAC is the “Legal voice for the American equine.”