Ninth Circuit Appeals Court Upholds Dismissal of Rancher Anti-Mustang Lawsuit

American Wild Horse Campaign Scores Another Major Legal Victory for Wild Horses & Burros in the West

San Francisco, CA (April 2, 2017) . . . Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco upheld a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO), the Nevada Farm Bureau, Nevada Big Horns and Crawford Cattle seeking the removal of thousands of wild horses from public lands in the state.

On April 2, 2014, the U.S. District Court in Nevada Judge Miranda Du granted the American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC), author Terri Farley and photographer Mark Terrell were granted the right to intervene in the case.  On May 29, AWHC et al filed a motion to dismiss in the case. On March 12, 2015, Judge Miranda Du granted the intervenors’ motion to dismiss the case “with prejudice,” meaning the plaintiffs could not amend or re-file it.

NACO and the Farm Bureau appealed Judge Du’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court. The Ninth Circuit today upheld the lower court’s decision, affirming that the NACO et al. lawsuit – which also sought to force the sale for slaughter of the tens of thousands of captured wild horses in holding facilities – had no legal merit.  In particular, the Ninth Circuit found that “NACO seeks judicial oversight and direction of virtually the entire federal wild horse and burro management program in Nevada,” which is not the judiciary’s role.

“This decision should help put a stop to baseless lawsuits from the livestock industry aiming to force the federal government to round up federally protected wild horses across the West,” said Nick Lawton, of Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks, the public interest law firm representing the American Wild Horse Campaign, Ms. Farley and Mr. Terrell. “We’re pleased that the Courts continue to dismiss attempts by these grazing interests to use the judicial system to rewrite federal law that Congress designed to protect wild horses from capture, not to favor the livestock industry.”

Filed on behalf of Nevada ranchers, who graze their private cattle and sheep on American public lands that they lease at well-below market rates, the NACO lawsuit sought to compel the BLM to immediately round up and remove more than 6,000 wild horses from Nevada public lands, conduct wild horse and burro roundups every two months in the state, and to “auction, sell or otherwise dispose of” the 50,000 wild horses and burros currently stockpiled in government warehousing facilities.

According to AWHC, the NACO lawsuit was part of a broader strategy by ranchers to use the courts to compel the BLM to remove an increasing number of wild horses from public lands and sell captured wild horses for slaughter. AWHC has been granted the right to intervene in similar lawsuits in Utah and Wyoming.

Last year, AWHC and its coalition partners won two important legal victories, when the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a similar lawsuit by the State of Wyoming and affirmed a lawsuit filed by AWHC, et al against the BLM for illegal actions related to the 2015 roundup of over 1,000 wild horses from public lands in Wyoming.

For more information on this legal action, please click here

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) (formerly known as the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.

Terri Farley is a full-time author who lives in the Reno area and spends a significant amount of time observing wild horses, both on the range and in the holding facilities. She is the author of the Phantom Stallion book series, which has sold over a million copies worldwide. Her latest book, Wild at Heart: Mustangs and the Young People Fighting to Save Them was released in 2015 and has received numerous scholastic and scientific awards.

Mark Terrell owns the Dayton-based Wild Horses of Nevada Photography He is a nationally known wild horse photographer and operator of tours that provide visitors with the opportunity to view, experience, and photograph the wild horses of Nevada.