Wyoming Checkerboard Lawsuit 2014

2016 Update: This case was resolved successfully when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that the BLM cannot treat public land as private. The court determined that the BLM had violated federal law by using a landowner request to remove horses from private land as an excuse to eradicate them from the public lands as well. 

On August 1, 2014, the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, The Cloud Foundation and Return to Freedom filed a lawsuit to stop the BLM's proposed roundup of more than 800 wild horses from the Adobe Town, Salt Wells Creek and Divide Basin Herd Management Areas in Wyoming. The roundup had been scheduled to begin on August 20, but has been postponed as a result of the lawsuit until at least September 1. After the courts denied our motion for a Preliminary Injuction to stop the roundup, the helicopter capture operation began on September 15 and continued through October 9, 2014. The BLM removed 1,263 federally-protected wild horses from public and private lands in the checkerboard portions of the three HMAs, leaving the populations in all three areas well below the minimum number established and mandated under the governing Resource Management Plans. On March 2, 2015, a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal at the University of Wyoming College of Law in Laramie. Less than 24 hours later, Judge Freudenthal issued her decision. 

On June 19, 2015, AWHPC and our coalition partners filed a notice to appeal this decision. On November 20, 2015 William A. Eubanks of Meyer Glitzenstein and Eubanks filed our opening brief at the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. On November 27, 2015, a group of environmental law professors filed an Amicus brief in support of our appeal. On October 14, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled in our favor, holding that BLM violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by removing hundreds of federally protected will horses from public lands under the agency’s limited private land removal authority, and in the process ignoring the legal requirements that BLM must satisfy before permanently removing wild horses from public lands. Because all herd management areas either contain private lands within their boundaries or are adjacent to private lands, today’s ruling has enormous precedential implications for wild horse management throughout the American West.  The ruling can be found here.
At the same time, the BLM opened a public comment period on an Environmental Assessment written to correct the agency's violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, which were affirmed by Judge Freudenthal's decision. 







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