By Laura Allen, of Animal Law Coalition
Nevada federal District Court Judge Larry Hicks has issued an injunction prohibiting the BureaÂ of Land Management (BLM) from proceeding with the Tuscarora roundup. BLM halted the roundup after public outcry over the deaths of horses.
Judge Hicks set a hearing on July 14 on a motion for a restraining order filed by plaintiff Laura Leigh, a journalist, author, artist, and wild horse advocate, to delay the roundup until August and compel BLM to allow access to the roundup by the media and the public. The judge explained that he was then informed that BLM Director Bob Abbey had issued an order for an emergency roundup of the horses prior to the hearing.
Based on this change in the BLM’s position, “the court finds it necessary to grant an immediate injunction preventing the Tuscarora gathering of wild horses until further order by the court,” ordered Judge Hicks.
In proceeding with the roundup on July 10, BLM basically ignored thousands of citizens who submitted letters and emails in protest during a period of public comment on the planned roundup. An appeal of BLM’s decision to round up wild horses has been filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals by In Defense of Animals and Craig Downer, a wildlife ecologist. Â BLM, however, can resume the roundup while the appeal is pending.
Dehydration, Death, and Cruelty
Once again, BLM hired Dave Cattoors to round up wild horses. Cattoors has a federal conviction for aiding and abetting the theft and sale of wild horses for slaughter. He has made millions as a BLM contractor rounding up wild horses and burros.
As summer temperatures soared on the first day of the roundup, Cattoors ran down approximately 228 horses in a matter of a few hours with a helicopter. Most of the horses were forced to run for miles. Many of the mares had just given birth or were about to do so. It was a tragedy in the making, and 7 horses died during the first day of the roundup while another was euthanized in the holding pen after breaking a leg.
BLM’s Rationale for the Roundup
Buried in its Environmental Assessment, BLM says that to “leave …. wild horses on the range, could lead to negative impacts on livestock grazing management.” Agri-business does not want wild horses and burros on public lands it uses for livestock grazing. And neither does BLM.
Long time rancher, now Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has said wild horses do not belong on public lands. BLM is an agency within the Department of the Interior (DOI).
Follow the Money
Fees charged for cattle or sheep grazing are $1.35 per animal under 18,000 grazing permits and leases on 258 million acres. Grazing livestock on public lands is a $132 million loss to the American taxpayer each year and independent economists have estimated the true cost at between $500 million and $1 billion a year.
Investigative reporter George Knapp revealed that plans to build the Ruby oil and natural gas pipeline likely facilitated the mass removals of wild horses. The pipeline will extend across northern Nevada. It is no surprise to find BP involved. BP and another DOI agency, Minerals Management Service, have operated as one and the same under DOI Secretary Ken Salazar.
Leigh filed her lawsuit in Nevada federal District Court to delay the Tuscarora roundup until after foaling season and a period of rest for birthing mares. Leigh also seeks an order requiring BLM to allow the public and media access to the horses during the roundup and after they are placed in a holding facility.
Leigh says BLM violated its own policy that prohibits helicopter roundups until at least six weeks after peak foaling season ends on or about June 30. According to her Complaint and affidavits, observers confirm a number of mares have given birth in recent days or are about to do so. Leigh says the roundup during the summer virtually during foaling season violates the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act’s requirements for humane treatment of the horses.
Leigh’s other claim is that BLM’s closure of 27,000 acres of public lands in the area of the roundup constitutes a violation of the First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of the press. Leigh says the BLM is censoring information and denies the media the ability to observe and report on a government action.
You Can Help
Join Animal Law Coalition and thousands of organizations and citizens and call on President Obama to order a moratorium on wild horse roundups. The numbers is 202-456-1111.
For more information, read Laura’s full story.
From Me–Michele of Pet News and Views
Just in case you don’t know me, I write this blog. I called the White House, and it just took 2 minutes. The line can be busy. I hope you will be patient and call.