Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Wyoming Wild Horse Roundup Legality Argued before Federal Judge

Straight from the Horse's Heart

Source: Multiple
“BLM is crafting an exception Congress didn't write.”
BLM terrorizing what's left of Wyoming's wild horses. ~ photo by Carol Walker of Wild Horse Freedom Federation
BLM terrorizing what’s left of Wyoming’s wild horses. ~ photo by Carol Walker ofWild Horse Freedom Federation

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.
Wild horse advocates from the Cloud Foundation and Carol Walker from Wild Horse Freedom Federation, who digitally documented the roundup, sued alleging the stampede violated laws including the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The act requires the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to maintain wild horses on public land yet round them up from private land when asked to do so by private landowners.
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.

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