A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Nevada Association of Counties, the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, several rural counties and others that sought to force the Bureau of Land Management to follow the law and properly manage the wild horse and burro populations in Nevada.
The suit claimed the BLM is starving the very animals the law was intended to protect, as well as the overpopulation is resulting in damage to range land used for cattle grazing and taking private water rights.
Judge Miranda Du ruled that she basically did not have the authority to micromanage the BLM and the plaintiffs failed to “identify a final agency action that is subject to judicial review.”
Though the suit spelled out a pattern of neglect and lack of scientific data to support the agency’s actions, the judge said the law requires specific and discrete acts to be spelled out.
The judge explained (edited to remove legal notations and add explanations of abbreviations):
The FAC (First Amended Complaint) alleges that Federal Defendants acted arbitrarily and capriciously in making decisions “based on political considerations and their own preferences,” rather than following the Wild Horse Act and its regulations. As alleged, Plaintiffs’ claims challenge Federal Defendants’ creation of animal inventories, their maintenance of a thriving natural balance” on public lands, their determinations of AMLs (Appropriate Management Levels) and excess populations, and their decisions to gather wild horses and burros. … The Court need not decide whether Federal Defendants have discretion in carrying out their duties under the Wild Horse Act. Plaintiffs have failed to identify any unlawfully withheld agency action, much less a mandatory agency action.
Meanwhile, there are nearly 50,000 feral horses and burros on the open range in the West, nearly 50 percent more than the range can handle. About half those are in Nevada. Off the range, there are another 48,000 animals in either short-term corrals or long-term pastures, which the taxpayers are feeding for their average 25-year life span.
The BLM pleads poverty, saying Congress has cut its budget, much of which goes to warehousing horses, while Congress also has forbidden selling any unadoptable horses for slaughter.
The opinion: Wild horse ruling