Attorneys argued Monday over whether a wild horse roundup on western Wyoming rangelands conducted last year complied with or violated federal law that carries different requirements for such roundups depending on whether the horses are on federal or private land.
The roundup of 1,263 horses in late September and early October occurred in what is called a Checkerboard, a vast area of sagebrush high desert named for its square-mile squares of private land interspersed with same-sized squares of public land.
Few fences exist in the vast Checkerboard area east and south of Rock Springs and wild horses crisscross the public-private boundaries at will.
The BLM violated the wild horse act first by failing to determine beforehand the area had too many horses and then by rounding up more horses than their herds’ pre-established minimum population thresholds, attorney William Eubanks told U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal.
Both are requirements under the wild horse act for roundups on public land.
“There are few statutes which are as clear as the provisions in this statute are,” Eubanks said. “BLM is crafting an exception Congress didn’t write.”
He suggested the BLM could have carried out a roundup that met the requirements of the act and then released some horses outside the Checkerboard, but still within their herd management areas, to maintain the required minimum in each herd.
An attorney for the federal government argued the horse advocates’ case is moot because the roundup is over and done with and no further roundups in the Checkerboard are planned.
“Do we have a reasonable expectation we’re going to bump into this again? We don’t know,” attorney Coby Howell told Freudenthal.
He said the wild horse act doesn’t address what to do about wild horses in an area like the Checkerboard and suggested that horses rounded up and released could be back on private Checkerboard lands owned by the Rock Springs Grazing Association within days or even hours.
“He wants to capture those horses, move them a couple hundred yards and turn them loose,” Howell said of Eubanks’ argument.
Not so — the BLM could release rounded-up horses up to 70 miles away from any private lands, Eubanks said on rebuttal.
The grazing association, a ranchers group, sued in 2011 to force the BLM to remove all wild horses from the association’s lands, including the Checkerboard lands, in accordance with the wild horse and burro act. The BLM resolved the lawsuit by generally agreeing to the demands.
Now the grazing association and state of Wyoming have intervened in the case on the federal government’s side. Disputes between the BLM and association over wild horses in the Checkerboard date to the 1970s. In 1981, they were resolved, at least temporarily, by a federal judge’s order that applied to horses on both public and private lands in the Checkerboard, pointed out grazing association attorney Connie Brooks.
“You could argue that BLM should have redone the agreement but that’s not what was done,” Brooks told Freudenthal.
Freudenthal took the arguments under advisement and will rule later.
IN THE HANDS OF KILL BUYERS! When horses are purchased at auction by buyers intending to kill them, they're hauled away in double- decker tractor trailers where they are beaten and often blinded with baseball bats to mollify them. After crossing the border into Mexico, the animals are stabbed on each side-an act to tenderize their meat-and immobilized. Workers, then saw the horses legs off, at the knee and hang them to bleed out-all while the horses are ALIVE! (This is an excerpt, from an article written by Missy Diaz, crediting Victoria Mc Cullough and Sen. Joe Abruzzo for bringing awareness of horse slaughter, to Florida. In 2010 Florida Legislation unanimously passed the Horse Protection Bill, making it a felony to slaughter horses for personal or commercial use.)