U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled that the public interest was better served by allowing the Bureau of Land Management to manage “wild free-roaming horses” over preventing potential harm from the gather, which the judge said would be “minimal.”
The BLM started the gather at 6:30 a.m., using bait and water to attract horses in the West Douglas area, as well as driving horses toward corrals using a helicopter.
“All of them looked healthy and there were no incidents coming into the trap,” BLM spokesman Christopher Joyner said Wednesday. “The contractor did a good job of ensuring the horses weren’t stressed.”
The agency will conduct the gather until it collects 167 horses — the number of spaces available in long-term holding facilities run by the BLM.
Cooper ruled that the BLM’s designation of all horses in the West Douglas Herd area as “excess” didn’t mean that the agency intended to remove all horses from the 123,000-acre area.
Excess animals are those that must be removed to preserve “a thriving natural ecological balance on the public lands,” Cooper wrote.
The injunction was sought by The Cloud Foundation, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, The Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition, Don and Toni Moore of Fruita, and Barb Flores of Greeley. Don Moore is a veterinarian.
Several opponents of the gather — many of them from Arizona, which has a band of horses in Salt Wash — called reporters on Wednesday to question the gather, or roundup, of animals that played a significant role in U.S. history.
The plaintiffs filed suit on Sept. 4 and filed for an injunction on Sept. 6. Cooper presided over a hearing on Sept. 11 in which Flores and an official with The Cloud Foundation and Kent Walter, manager of the BLM’s White River Field Office, testified.
“This case has proceeded at a gallop,” Cooper wrote in his decision, in which he also cited a lyric from the Rolling Stones 1971 song, “Wild Horses.”
“(They) have (their) freedom, but (they) don’t have much time,” Cooper wrote, “So it is for a group of wild horses that, beginning tomorrow, are scheduled to be removed from two tracts of federal rangeland in northwest Colorado.”