‘Unreasonable delay’: Federal judge favors wild horse advocates in lawsuit against BLM

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A federal judge in Reno has ruled in favor of wild horse advocates who sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for failing to stick to their own rules in planning controversial roundups.

U.S. District Judge Miranda M. Du ruled Friday the BLM “unreasonably delayed” completion of “Herd Management Area Plans” (HMAPs) as outlined in a complaint filed by Wild Horse Education. Those plans are supposed to summarize the goals and actions required to achieve those goals.

The lawsuit was filed in January 2022 over the Pancake Complex roundup, which brought attention to when video was released of a colt with a broken leg running from a helicopter. 8 News Now Investigator Vanessa Murphy covered the story. The video — at the top of this story — came from Wild Horse Education (WHE).

Wild horse roundup – Pancake complex (Wild Horse Education)

“I am simply elated,” WHE President Laura Leigh said Friday. “The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act is about more than just removal. Today, the court affirmed the intention of that law.”

The ruling said, in part, “Engaging in the decision-making of an HMAP without actually preparing an HMAP could therefore deprive interested parties of the administrative review processes to which they are entitled.”

The court sent existing environmental assessment back to the BLM for further analysis, ordering BLM to complete the Pancake Complex HMAP within one year.

“BLM’s decades-long delays in developing and approving HMAPs have therefore been ‘nothing short of egregious’ and clearly violate the rule of reason,” the court said.

The Pancake Complex covers nearly 1.2 million acres about 30 miles west of Ely. By the end of that roundup on Valentine’s Day in 2022, 26 horses died or were put to death. BLM’s report described the colt’s death: “Bay Foal was euthanized in accordance with IM 2021-007 due to acute injury (Break).”

Leigh told 8 News Now the “gather plans” published by the BLM are inadequate because they only talk about how many horses will be taken off the range without addressing issues like forage allocation. Nor do the gather plans consider the impact of livestock grazing on the same land.

“For over 12 years I have been trying to address critical issues of on-range management planning with BLM and have been repeatedly denied,” she said. “There is no replacement for the HMAP where the public has the only opportunity to address specifics of management planning and actions to achieve those goals. Finally, after 38 years, BLM will need to provide that opportunity.”

The video sparked new debate on the use of helicopters and U.S. Rep. Dina Titus promised action. “You saw the pictures from the most recent one at the Pancake area near Ely, where they chased that little colt till he just ran down and then they had to shoot him. What purpose does that serve? So, we need to find another method, and the first thing we can do is get rid of, outlaw and ban those helicopters,” she said.

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Original News Source Link – KLAS

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