FOIA Lawsuit

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 13, 2020) - The American Wild Horse Campaign sued the Trump Administration today under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for documents related to closed-door meetings between the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and special interests groups regarding key wild horse policies. The DOI has not complied with its statutory deadlines and failed to produce any documents to the AWHC.

“In recent years, DOI and BLM have attempted to impose sweeping changes to the management of our federally protected wild horses and burros, all without transparency to the American taxpayers who foot the bill for costly federal mismanagement,” said Brieanah Schwartz, Government Relations and Policy Counsel for AWHC. “AWHC is seeking information that will shed light on secretive meetings with industry groups so that the public is aware of the special interest pressure driving federal policy for the management of these American icons.”

Under the Trump Administration, former Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and current Secretary David Bernhardt have attempted to implement radical changes to the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program while hosting closed-door meetings with industry and other stakeholder interests. These changes include seeking to overturn a longstanding Congressional prohibition on the use of federal funds for the destruction of healthy horses and burros or the sale of these animals without limitation on slaughter—actions which the American public overwhelmingly opposes — as well as the implementation of controversial surgical sterilization methods that the National Academy of Sciences recommended against in a 2013 BLM-commissioned report.

Among the records being sought are those that relate to closed-door meetings between the DOI/BLM and livestock industry interests, including Protect the Harvest - an industry front group that lobbies for horse slaughter and cruel sterilization surgeries on wild mares. We hope to illuminate the connections between industry interests and DOI policy, which scapegoats wild horses from environmental damage caused by livestock and seeks the mass roundup and removal of wild horses from public lands.