Wild Horse Group Files in Federal Court Against BLM Owyhee Roundup

Wild Horses of the Snowstorm HMA, photo taken just last month

Wild Horses of the Snowstorm HMA, photo taken just last month

Press Release: Wild Horse Group Files in Federal Court Against BLM Owyhee Roundup

(Reno, NV) Today Wild Horse Education’s President Laura Leigh continues the legal challenges against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lack of transparency, inhumane conduct and unjustified removals of wild horses from public land. Her attorney Gordon Cowan of Reno filed federal court documents against the BLM’s continued removal of wild horses in northern Nevada. The documents extend a current claim against inhumane treatment and unjustified removals and add a component dealing with a lack of public observation at ongoing activities.

In January of this year litigation began against inhumane conduct after the first roundup occurred under a ten year plan the BLM finalized for the Owyhee Complex (Complex) . During operations wild horses were run through barbed wire, run in extreme temperatures, babies were run to exhaustion and hot shots and whipping of animals was prevalent. A Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)  was granted, and later lifted, to allow the removal of 50 additional animals after BLM claimed financial hardship. The court only lifted the order after issuing very specific expectations for conduct.

The Complaint also stated that as BLM removals enter into other Herd Management Areas (HMA) within the Complex,  there was no data to support accurate identification of population sizes and how horses they move throughout the Complex. The BLM admitted prior to the removals that there is no formal data on movement even though they base what they consider an appropriate number of animals in the Complex on movement. All requests for any data, even if informal, have yet to be responded to.

BLM plans a 60 day bait and water trap operation, during a purported emergency, to remove 340 in the southern portion of the Snowstorm HMA within the Complex. The operation allows no public observation of handling of animals. The operation allows limited observation by BLM personnel. The operation is based on incomplete data of the HMA and the Complex. The operation is expected to begin any day.

Snowstorm wild horses

Snowstorm wild horses

“It is very frustrating that the BLM is moving ahead with this operation as a hearing was already scheduled later this month on the first filing,” stated Leigh “I have been in the area and there is no emergency. What exists is a real demonstration of years of mismanagement. BLM is now hiding handling of animals. Moving forward before our hearing leaves no choice but to file to amend the complaint and ask for another TRO. It feels like the typical BLM strategy to compound a problem before you get a chance to address it, until problems lead to crisis. I believe this is what they have done with the entire program.”

Earlier this year the National Academy of Sciences released a two-year, 1.5 million dollar study of the wild horse and burro program. Many of the findings of the report support Leigh’s allegations.

A TRO motion will join the amended complaint already on file later today.


Wild Horse Education carries three active federal lawsuits against the BLM.

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Categories: Legal, Owyhee