Editorial: BLM should fight wild horse suit this time

A recent BLM wild horse roundup. (BLM pix)

The usual suspects are at it again, filing a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia demanding the court halt a plan by the Bureau of Land Management to remove all the feral horses in a 40-mile radius around Caliente.

The American Wild Horse Campaign, Western Watershed Project, The Cloud Foundation and a Beatty outdoor enthusiast are suing the BLM, saying it failed to adequately document and support its roundup decision, though what would ever be adequate for them is difficult to say.

Some of the same plaintiffs brought a similar lawsuit in 2011 over a planned removal of wild horses from Jakes Wash west of Ely, but the suit was mooted when the BLM backed down rather fight the matter.

In 2009 there were only 270 wild horses in the 900,000-acre Caliente area, but a year ago there were more than 1,700, a number the BLM deems unsustainable.

Plaintiffs consider their desire to be able to see “iconic” feral horses as more important than the livelihoods of ranchers who graze 4,500 head of cattle and sheep in the area.

One of the plaintiffs explained in the lawsuit, “The members of The Cloud Foundation enjoy viewing, studying, photographing, and filming wild horses in their natural habitats, free from human interference. The Cloud Foundation’s members travel to various areas, including public lands in Nevada, specifically for the purpose of viewing wild horses.”

The suit says of the Beatty resident that she “enjoys camping, hiking, birdwatching, and observing the flora and fauna. She also engages in photography and field sketching as hobbies, and particularly enjoys viewing, photographing, and sketching the wild horses that roam in the basins and on the ranges of Nevada.”

Isn’t that special?

Suzanne Roy, executive director of the American Wild Horse Campaign, told the Las Vegas newspaper, “It’s time for the BLM to stop prioritizing ranching special interests and start honoring the wishes of Americans to ensure that our iconic mustangs are protected and humanely managed on our public lands.”

BLM officials say they can’t comment on pending litigation.

The BLM plan is to gather the horses for up to 10 years in the Caliente Herd Area Complex, which consists of nine Herd Areas — Applewhite, Blue Nose Peak, Clover Creek, Clover Mountains, Delamar Mountains, Little Mountain, Meadow Valley Mountains, Miller Flat and Mormon Mountains.

The public notice of the plan said the removal is “needed to improve watershed health and make significant progress towards achieving range health standards recommended by the BLM’s Mojave / Southern Great Basin Resource Advisory Council. The proposed gather plan would allow for an initial gather with follow-up gathers for up to 10 years from the date of the initial gather. The plan calls for transporting gathered horses to holding facilities where they would be offered for adoption.”

The agency said the Caliente Herd Area Complex is not designated for wild horses due to insufficient forage and water resources.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land in the West. Economic activity on that land generated $75 billion in 2016 and supported more than 372,000 jobs.

But the lawsuit ignores that aspect of land use and instead claims the BLM permits grazing on the same public lands by thousands of cattle and sheep that, unlike wild horses, are not an “integral part of the natural system of the public lands,” though feral horses are not native and have few natural predators to keep the herds from overbreeding and depleting limited water and grazing resources that leads to starvation of the very animals they claim to want to protect.

The BLM should not cave in this time and fight to preserve a balanced multiple use of the land and seek to have the court assess the plaintiffs for all costs involved.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

5 comments on “Editorial: BLM should fight wild horse suit this time

  1. Anonymous says:

    It’s long past time for ranchers to stop being welfare cowboys and either make it in the beautiful free market, or mosey on down the road.

    We can’t afford them just because they’ve been romanticized in song and story.

    Then, after the free market has decided, my guess is you won’t ever hear a peep again out if any one of them about “those poor old starving horses”.

  2. noodle35 says:

    Can’t the horse lovers sketch and photograph them in an allotment of appropriate size instead of hundreds or thousands of undernourished, thirsty horses?

    Jim Gregory 775-934-5995 jim@weststates.org

    >

  3. Bill says:

    Perhaps the ranchers, sheepmen, 4-H boys and girls should turn their animals loose on the open range and then I guess they would become “wild” and protected instead of just stray feral animals like the horses and burros herds in the west have become. Then we could have more lawsuits arguing over programs to control their numbers and the government, at taxpayer expense could set up shelters and holding pens for several mllion of dollars. And, at the end there would be no solution except that professional fund raisers and lawyers will be enriched and the court systems will get more clogged with frivolous actions that have no consequences to the losers.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I strongly object, on probably some religious grounds that seem all the rage these days, to my tax dollars being spent to fund a BLM whose actions are effectively subsidizing millionaire cowboy ranchers.

    The BLMs horse round ups and internment practices cost money. The BLMs defense of these lawsuits cost money and it’s not their money is the good American citizens tax paying money their spending and for what? So that a couple millionaire ranchers who have fed their cows subsidized feed that I’ve been partially responsible for paying for can go one eating cheap grass whenever they get a hankering.

    Not another justification for what the big gov’ment bureaucrats are doing out there today and it just ain’t right. Stealing my tax dollars, at the point of a gun mind you, Alls sos a couple ranchsters can go out benefit by this redistribution of my wealth into their pockets.

    That just ain’t right.

  5. Steve says:

    Corn farmers……

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