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Wild horse activists file suit against BLM over Nevada roundup


by Dana Gentry, Nevada Current
January 24, 2022

Wild horse advocates filed a lawsuit Friday in federal court in an attempt to stop what they call cruel, secretive and unjustified round ups of horses conducted by the Bureau of Land Management in central Nevada. 

The groups, Animal Wellness Action, CANA Foundation, and Wild Horse Education, allege BLM has failed to conduct a Herd Management Area Plan, as required by law prior to the roundup. By not doing so, the BLM has failed to “maintain a thriving ecological balance on the public lands…” 

“BLM has consistently ignored this legal mandate in its ongoing effort to rid America’s open ranges of wild horses across the country,” says a news release from the organizations.

“Using drought as a fig leaf for its illegal actions, the Bureau of Land Management is depopulating the West of its wild horses and burros herd by herd and burning through taxpayer dollars with their endless roundups and swelling holding facilities,” Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, said in the news release. “It’s then allowing ranchers to pour cattle and sheep onto the land, making a mockery of their false claims about horse impacts on the range.”

The roundup at the Pancake Complex, 30 miles west of Ely, is targeting more than 2,000 wild horses roaming more than one million acres, according to a BLM news release. The agency did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit. 

“The operation has already resulted in the deaths of at least 10 wild horses, including a young foal who was relentlessly chased by a BLM helicopter contractor after it snapped and broke its leg,” says a news release from the horse advocacy groups.  

The BLM shared this photo of public observers watching the Pancake Complex wild horse roundup on Jan. 12, 2022. Image: BLM

The advocates say on Jan. 11, the first day of the roundup, “a colt suffered a horrific broken leg and another young colt was run over and trampled in the trap corrals. In addition, heavily pregnant mares are being stampeded by low-flying helicopters over wet, slippery terrain as foaling season begins on the range.”

“Removal is not management,” said Laura Leigh, president of Wild Horse Education. “Skipping management planning does not make a roundup plan magically become a management plan. This program remains unaccountable to the taxpayer and the public resource.”

Horses and burros “end up in kill pens and slaughter auctions through the BLM sales and Adoption Incentive Program (AIP), which is routinely exploited by unscrupulous kill-buyers and their collaborators,” says the news release.

“Each day our team documents wild horses I have followed through generations. I will likely never see them again.” said Leigh. “We are losing one of the last large herds we have left. I am losing companions I have known for a very long time. This roundup tears my heart apart every single day.”

The groups contend the roundups have resulted in hundreds of deaths, and have left thousands of federally protected horses and burros “in barren BLM holding facilities at enormous expense to American taxpayers.”

The suit also asks the BLM to allow the public to observe roundups and have access to holding facilities.

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