Last week federal Judge Miranda Du allowed Laura Leigh, President of Wild Horse Education, a filing of a second amended complaint in the Owyhee Complex. The case is filed against a ten year Bureau of Land Management (BLM) management plan to remove wild horses. To read a full background on the litigation in this case please click this link: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2013/03/08/owyhee-complex-roundups-nv-next-phase-of-litigation-explained/
At a prior hearing in the case the Judge ordered specific parameters for the courts expectation of conduct during the roundup. This included that no foals would be run so hard that they fell behind, hotshots (electric prods) would not be used routinely and wild horses would not be driven through barbed wire. To read the order go to the bottom of the page here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/owyhee-complex/ (This order, and others gained by Leigh and her work through Wild Horse Education, were key in the pending humane care policy expected to be announced shortly from BLM).
The amended complaint continues to deal with issues of humane handling but expands the arguments against unjustified removals in the Complex. The Owyhee Complex has five Herd Management Areas (HMAs) and spans over 1,000,000 acres. Leigh contends that the process used by BLM to determine “excess” horses is fatally flawed by a lack of concrete data. She says the plan is simply invalid.
“In the instance of this complex of HMAs there is simply no sound justification for the current plan,” states Leigh “The data that does exist is strung together by pure guesswork. This is not ‘best practices,’ it is fiction.”
As BLM is in process of reviewing the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report that was released after Leigh filed her initial claim, it is hoped that BLM will revisit this ill conceived plan and avoid the need to continue litigation. The NAS review appears to support every allegation in Leigh’s complaint.
“This type of plan that receives a district managers signature of approval needs to become a thing of the past,” states Leigh “If a district manager can not be given sound verifiable data by their staff, they simply need new staff, not status quo.”
In the case of the Owyhee decision, and in court records, Leigh submitted an email where she asked for the data used by the specialist that created the plan. The data used did not match that found by Leigh. She was told by the district manager via email that the data was not available at the district level and she would have to do a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request from the national office.
“It is long past time that we stop accepting this kind of dance in the wild horse and burro program.” said Leigh “my dancing shoes are getting uncomfortable and boots are what is really needed. BLM needs to get off their chairs and get boots on the ground and stop the nonsense of creating plans that have no data to back them up. If not? We can keep dancing back into courtrooms.”
footnote: Last year BLM intended to go into Snowstorm, an HMA in the Owyhee Complex. Litigation was filed to the plan and BLM immediately dropped the removal. That plan was based on flawed reasoning. Read about the cancellation of Snowstorm here: https://wildhorseeducation.org/2013/08/10/blm-tells-court-nothing-happening-at-snowstorm-owyhee/
Wild Horse Education is devoted to gaining protection from abuse, slaughter and extinction of wild horses and burros.