Victory for Nevada Wild Horses is Now Being Challenged in Court

It seemed like great news for conservationists in the ongoing battle between the preservation interests of conservationists and the commercial interests of ranchers: a judge in Nevada on March 12 sided with wild horse advocates against ranchers who wanted the Bureau of Land Management to round up and kill wild horses to reserve grazing land for their privately-owned livestock.

Specifically, livestock interests in Nevada had asked a federal judge to force the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, to remove thousands of horses that exceeded the optimum population size, as determined by the bureau, to maintain a thriving natural ecological balance.

This was the first of four separate lawsuits filed recently by ranchers, demanding that the federal government thin the horse herd and reduce competition with their cattle for food and water on public land.

However, U.S. District Judge Miranda Du in Nevada dismissed the ranchers’ lawsuit, agreeing with horse interests that she lacked jurisdiction.

The Challenge

This all changed on March 23, when the Nevada Farm Bureau and the Nevada Association of Counties announced that they planned to appeal Judge Miranda Du’s decision.

Exactly how they will appeal is still unknown, but the Nevada Association of Counties and the Nevada Farm Bureau issued this statement:

The significant overpopulation of wild horses and burros in Nevada has severe impacts on the health of horses as well as the ecological health and sustainability of Nevada rangelands. It also results in the degradation of natural springs and riparian areas and negative effects on native wildlife and vegetation.

The Wild Horses of The West

Wild horses, or mustangs, inhabit the plains and mountains of ten western states. For years, ranchers have pressured the government to control their numbers by rounding them up and offering them to the public for adoption. This, in spite of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, which reads:

Congress finds and declares that free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that they contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people; and that these horses and burros are fast disappearing from the American scene. It is the policy of Congress that free wild-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death.

Regardless, since the passage of this act, more than 270,000 wild horses and burros have been removedfrom public lands.

According to theAmerican Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, tens of thousands of horses are rounded up and placed in holding facilities that cost the American taxpayer over $100,000 every day.

And in 2004, a change to the law made it legal for wild horses in holding facilitiesto be sold for slaughter.

Temporary Victory For Conservationists

“Plaintiffs’ complaint amounts to a long laundry list of what the plaintiffs want, without identifying any statutory provisions requiring BLM to actually comply with these demands,” read the motion to dismiss.

Lawsuits making nearly identical claims are pending in Utah, Wyoming and Pershing County, Nev.,according to William Eubanks, who represented defendant interveners American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign with the winning motion.

“Now that we have a federal judge who has ruled for us on this issue, this provides an additional bit of ammunition,” said Eubanks. His firm will make oral arguments for the Utah case this week.

Conservationists vs. Ranchers

At issue for horse advocates is that the 1971 Act protects the wild horses and burros as a national esthetic resource; meanwhile the Taylor Grazing Act, passed in 1934, allows ranchers to get permits to use public land, but attaches no compensable rights.

Since the 19th century, the number of wild horses roaming the West has decreased by 98 percent, from two million to just about 32,000. At the same time, private livestock outnumber wild horses and burros on public land by at least 50 to one, and eight times more federally managed land is authorized for livestock grazing than for wild horses.

Now we wait to see if the appeal by those commercial interests of the ranchers will once again hold sway over the powers-that-be.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Ranchers should be rounded up and sentenced to life in prison. Bunch of criminal useless greedy rednecks.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis W3 years ago

Beautiful horse, beautiful photo, Born Free, Live Freely.

Glennis Whitney
Glennis W3 years ago

Come on Nevada do the right thing for these adorable horses, thank you for sharing.

Angela K.
Angela K3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

mari s.
Mari S3 years ago

Let's keep fighting FOR the horses -- all of us -- let's have our voices heard FOR the horses -- no matter what -- sign petitions (read them carefully first) -- show up at meetings -- be present at rallies -- let's do everything to protect our horses -- no matter what is said about the ranchers, let's not be intimidated .... let's take them on .... with our numbers .... our horses CAN win -- do not give in nor give up!

Elfje Muse
Elfje Muse3 years ago

Humans in action again and we sign and sign and sign and then it goes to court and we fall flat on our faces again, you know you cannot change someone else only yourself. I've learned that the hard way but it is true, they need to wake up themselves. Visualizing a wonderful world is more powerful than fighting

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B3 years ago

Please let these horses live in peace.

Mahmoud Khalil
Mahmoud Khalil3 years ago