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RBC I Late Friday, a lawsuit was filed in federal court by The Cloud Foundation (TCF), Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF), The Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition (CWHBC), Dr. Don Moore and Toni Moore of Fruita, Colo., and Barb Flores of Greeley, Colo., to block the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed roundups of horses from northwestern Colorado’s herds.
The lawsuit, filed in United States District Court in Washington, D.C., by Valerie Stanley and Mara Hurwitt, alleges that the BLM violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WFRHBA) by authorizing the removal of 167 wild horses from public lands in West Douglas Herd Area (WDHA) and Piceance East Douglas Herd Management Area (PEDHMA).
The BLM authorized the zeroing out of the WDHA and a significant reduction in the number of horses in PEDHMA without conducting proper environmental analyses and without making substantiated findings required by the WFRHBA.
The suit alleges that for decades the Bureau of Land Management has attempted to obliterate the West Douglas Herd claiming “wild horses that reside in the WDHA are impacting the landscape and the ability to maintain a thriving, natural ecological balance.”
BLM’s January 2015 Environmental Assessment states “that all wild horses within or adjacent to the WDHA meet the statutory definition of excess animals, and therefore, consistent with the authority provided in 16 USC § 1333 (b) (2), the BLM shall immediately remove excess animals from the range.”
Also in question is the BLM’s extrapolated population estimate of 291 wild horses within the WDHA and an additional 74 horses outside the WDHA boundaries.
“During 2015, the largest number of wild horses we have seen during a day trip has been 20,” states Toni Moore. “However, in January 2015, there were over 50 cows being fed hay on public lands within the herd area.”
“We have battled the destruction of this historic herd in the courts for decades,” states Ginger Kathrens, the volunteer executive director of The Cloud Foundation. “As recently as 2009, the courts ruled against the BLM when District Court Judge Collyer enjoined the BLM from removing any wild horses from the herd,” she continues. “BLM’s historic scapegoating of wild horses is a smoke screen. Rangeland damage is caused by thousands of head of privately-owned livestock, not our publicly owned and theoretically protected wild horses.”
“Mustangs inhabited the West Douglas Herd Area (WDHA) long before Colorado was even a territory, let alone a state,” states Toni Moore.
In their Sept. 1, 1776 diary entry, Spanish Explorer-Priests Dominguez and Escalante wrote about meeting Ute Indians riding horses in these valleys: “We set out from San Ramón toward the north, and having traveled three leagues through small valleys with abundant pasturage and thick groves of dwarf oak, we met about 80 Yutas [Utes] all on good horses, most of them being from the ‘rancheria’ to which we were going.”
“Using the BLM’s own statistics, the wild horses are outnumbered by a minimum of 4 to 1 by the welfare cattle allowed to graze on the horse’s range,” states R.T. Fitch, president and co-founder of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation. “The concept of the federal government destroying this herd to line the pockets of a few of their bedfellows ought to spark outrage in each and every American’s heart and soul. Enough is enough, and we are making a stand.”
Carol Walker, director of field documentation for WHFF, said, “The BLM must not be allowed to zero out this herd simply because it is ‘inconvenient’ to manage or because it is pandering to cattle ranchers and extraction companies. This would set a very damaging precedent for our few remaining wild horses and burros.”
If allowed to go forward, BLM’s roundup would reduce wild horse herds in Colorado to four, and the number of horses to 1,150, compared to the thousands of wild horses that once roamed the state.