Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Big Oil & Cattle vs. America’s Wild Horses: Showdown in Wyoming Federal Court

American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign

June 27, 2012 by

Corporate interests converge in Wyoming to rid the state of half its remaining wild horse population
Photo by Carol Walker
(Cheyenne, Wyoming – June 27, 2012)… Today, in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming, the leading public interest law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal filed papers to protect Wyoming’s wild horse population from a legal attack by the nation’s largest livestock grazing association and the multi-billion dollar, oil and gas giant, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation.
Filed on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, and the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros (ISPMB), the papers responded to briefs filed by the Rock Springs Grazing Association and Anadarko in a lawsuit that seeks to force the Interior Department to remove all wild horses from the “Wyoming checkerboard,” a two-million acre swath of public and private land in southern Wyoming. The area includes four wild horse Herd Management Areas – Salt Wells Creek, Great Divide Basin, White Mountain and Little Colorado – administered by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
In November, the federal court granted the wild horse advocacy groups intervenor status in the case (Rock Springs Grazing Association vs. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.)
These opening briefs represent round one in the legal showdown between wild horse advocates and big corporate interests over the use of public lands in Wyoming and the future of wild horses there.
“At the same time RSGA is complaining about a hundred extra wild horses on two million acres of land – half of which are publicly owned – the grazing association is permitted to have the year-round equivalent of tens of thousands of private livestock grazing on these same lands for its own economic benefit at taxpayer expense,” wrote attorney Katherine Meyer in her response brief filed today. “Thus, while RSGA complains mightily about the fact that the wild horses are using forage on private lands, it conspicuously fails to inform the Court that private livestock is using the vast majority of the forage on public lands that could otherwise be used by wild horses that, unlike livestock, are required by statute to be protected.”
“Despite tremendous public opposition, the BLM has removed thousands of horses from the Wyoming checkerboard in the past two years, but this is not enough to satisfy the livestock industry,” said Suzanne Roy, AWHPC director. “The ranchers view wild horses as competition for cheap grazing on public lands, and they won’t stop until all the horses are gone.”
“This story is playing out across the West, where ranchers and other corporate interests seek to exploit public lands and upend the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act,” said Ginger Kathrens, Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation. “In this case, we draw a line in the sand against the threat posed by ‘welfare ranchers’ and other corporate profiteers to the future of America’s treasured wild horses.”
“We are pleased to be a voice for the future of Wyoming’s mustangs,” said Karen Sussman, President of the ISPMB, the oldest wild horse advocacy group in the nation. “As a party to the original agreement establishing population levels in this area, we will vigorously defend the Wyoming’s wild horses and work toward an agreement that keeps them free where they belong on our public lands.”
RSGA controls the rangeland in the Wyoming checkerboard, an area 40 miles wide by 70 miles long that runs along the historic transcontinental railway corridor.  RSGA owns 550,000 acres outright and leases an additional 450,000 acres from the Anadarko Land Company, a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. RSGA also holds permits to graze livestock on a large portion of the public lands in the checkerboard.  RSGA owns members graze approximately 50,000 to 70,000 sheep and about 5,000 cattle on deeded private lands and leased public lands. By contrast, just 1,100- 1,600 wild horses are allowed to roam the area.
Thanks to taxpayer subsidies, RSGA members graze livestock on public lands for approximately one-twelfth (1/12) of the going market rate. The RSGA complaint, filed on July 27, 2011, seeks a court order that will (a) result in removing all wild horses from private lands in the Wyoming Checkerboard area, and (b) declare that the BLM “must remove all of the wild horses that have strayed onto the RSGA lands and the adjacent public lands within the Wyoming Checkerboard.”
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the  American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.
International Society for the Protection of Mustangs and Burros, founded over 50 years ago, was instrumental in securing the enactment of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, the landmark federal legislation that established protections for wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands in the West.
The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana.
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