A federal district court in Washington DC has granted a Summary Judgment Motion Against Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar et al forbidding removal of the West Douglas Herd of Wild Mustangs from their range in Colorado. This could be huge for all mustangs.
In the case of Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition vs Ken Salazar, Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior, et al on August 5, 2009, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the United States District Court, District of Columbia, ruled as follows: “For reasons explained herein, the Court finds that BLM’s decision to remove the West Douglas Herd exceeds the scope of authority that Congress delegated to it in the Wild Horse Act. The Court will grant in part Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, deny Defendants’ cross motion for summary judgment, and set aside BLM’s decision.”
In her ruling, Judge Collyer states, “It is a federal crime to remove a wild free-roaming horse or burro from public lands, convert a wild free-roaming horse or burro to private use, or kill or harass a wild free-roaming horse or burro. Congress delegated to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior jurisdiction over all wild free-roaming horses and burros ‘for the purpose of management and protection in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.’”
In other words, a federal court has found the BLM in violation of the very law they were appointed to enforce. A lot of folks have been saying that for a long time and now the point has finally gotten before a federal court and there is a ruling. This is huge.
As you probably know we’ve been on a mission to bring these BLM violations of the 1971 Wild Horse act to light. The act states that wild free-roaming horses and burros will have approximately 52 million acres of land “which is devoted principally to their welfare.” But that land has been arbitrarily reduced by approximately 36%, and 95% of the balance has been leased to cattle and sheep ranchers for livestock grazing. The horses and burros are outnumbered 150-to-1 by cattle and sheep on lands that are supposed to be “devoted principally to their welfare.” Consequently America’s mustangs are in serious danger of extinction.
There are approximately 60,000 still-wild mustangs in existence, roughly the same number as in the early ‘70s. But 33,000 of that 60,000 have been gathered out of the wild and are in BLM holding facilities across the country. And those that remain in the wild are living below viable levels, which simply put means below the number that must be available for breeding to keep the horse from not being forced into incest for the species to attempt to survive.
To my knowledge, this ruling on the Colorado herd is the first ever that addresses the BLM’s illegal actions against the wild horses. It could be the beginning of a new day for this icon of the American west.
To read the entire ruling (and it’s a fun read because the judge really nails the actions of the BLM):