July 19, 2011 by adminOn Thursday, July 14, 2011 more than 50 wild horse advocates gathered at the U.S. Federal Courthouse in Reno, Nevada to lend support to the Cloud Foundation’s lawsuit to stop the massive roundup of wild horses in the Triple B Complex in northeastern Nevada.
Representing the Cloud Foundation, ecologist Craig Downer and wild horse advocate Lorna Moffett, environmental lawyer Rachel Fazio presented oral arguments before U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben for an emergency Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from moving forward with the planned removal of 1,700 horses. Ms. Fazio, accompanied by local counsel Julie Cavanaugh-Bill, outlined the violations of the law and irreparable harm that Plaintiffs would suffer should the Court allow the pending removal to go forward. The BLM had delayed the roundup for ten days pending the Court hearing and stated in court that it would begin the roundup on Saturday, July 16.
The Department of Justice, defending the BLM and other named defendants, claimed that due to the lack of water in the Triple B area, the BLM had just the day before the hearing began to truck in water for wild horse in the Cherry Spring area. Ms. Fazio pointed out that the BLM had trucked in water to the Cherry Spring area each year for the past five years because the spring dried up every summer. After more than one hour of questioning both plaintiff and defendant counsel, Judge McKibben thanked both parties and the audience for being respectful and said he would issue his decision the following day.
Judge McKibben issued his ruling late on the afternoon of Friday, July 15, 2011, denying Plaintiff’s motion for a TRO and thereby allowing the BLM to proceed with the roundup the following day. Ms. Fazio immediately filed an emergency review with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Just hours after Judge McKibbens released his decision, the Ninth Circuit issued an emergency stay to prevent the roundup from beginning until the appellate court had time to consider Ms. Fazio’s emergency appeal. The unprecedented emergency stay has given the mustang of the Triple B area a temporary reprieve.
As of this posting the Ninth Circuit Appellate Court has not issued its ruling on Judge McKibben’s order.
The Associated Press article on the lawsuit is available here.
Rachel Fazio, attorney for The Cloud Foundation, Craig Downer and Lorna Moffat, issued the following statement on the status of the lawsuit:
“We were disappointed that the District Court did not feel that it was necessary to actually scrutinize the BLM’s decision or apply the plain language of the Wild Horse Act. The Wild Horse Act is clear, rouding up wild horses can only be done if the agency has demonstrated that a particular number of horses is preventing the agency from maintaining a thriving natural ecological balance. Today in the Triple B Complex, a thriving natural ecological balance is presently being maintained. We are encouraged that the Ninth Circuit has decided to temporarily enjoin the roundup so that they can fully consider the merits of our request for an injunction pending appeal. We are hopeful that wild horses might finally get their day in Court, before they are removed from the range.”