Pershing County & Ranchers Drop Anti-Mustang Lawsuit

RENO, NEVADA (September 28, 2015) … Pershing County and six public lands ranchers today dropped their lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeking the removal of hundreds of wild horses from public lands in the area. The ranchers and the BLM entered into a private settlement agreement that does not commit the government to any action. The agreement merely creates a drawn-out schedule over several years during which time the BLM is to consider the removal of wild horses from 16 wild horse habitat areas that overlap public lands utilized by the ranchers for grazing their privately-owned livestock. This dismissal comes three months after the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) and Pershing County property owner Debra Davenport were granted intervenor status in the case.

“This agreement is not court sanctioned and is little more than a face-saving way for the ranchers and local government to drop a lawsuit that had no legal merit and was bound to be dismissed by the court,” said Deniz Bolbol, AWHPC spokesperson. “The BLM should not reward ranchers for filing meritless lawsuits by prioritizing the removal of horses from the public lands at issue. Rather, the BLM should focus on humane on-the-range management and fulfilling its legal mandate to protect all wild horses and burros on our public lands in the West. Prioritizing removal of horses in these areas will simply encourage more baseless legal actions by ranchers and their local government allies.”

The lawsuit sought to force the BLM to immediately round up hundreds of wild horses from Congressionally designated wild horse habitat on public lands in Pershing County, Nevada.

The lawsuit was part of an attempt by ranchers, who view mustangs as competition for cheap taxpayer-subsidized grazing on public lands, to use the court system to compel the BLM to remove more wild horses from the range. To date, AWHPC has intervened in five of these cases. Earlier this year, Judge Du granted AWHPC’s motion to dismiss a similar case filed by the Nevada Association of Counties against the BLM, and the U.S. District Court in Wyoming granted AWHPC’s motion to dismiss the State of Wyoming’s lawsuit against the BLM seeking the removal of thousands of wild horses from the range.

The horse habitat areas at issue in the lawsuit include: Lava Beds Herd Management Area (HMA); Kamma Mountains HMA; Seven Troughs HMA; Blue Wing Mountains HMA; Shawave Mountains HMA; Eugene Mountains Herd Area (HA); Antelope Range HA; Trinity Range HA; Selenite Range HA; Truckee Range HA -- collectively known as “Blue Wing Complex” -- and Tobin Range HMA; North Stillwater HMA; Augusta Mountains HMA; East Range HA; Humbolt HA; and Sonoma Range HA.

In June 2013, the National Academy of Sciences endorsed a fertility control vaccine known as PZP as a viable alternative to the roundup and removal of wild horses from the range. Despite this, the BLM has failed to implement fertility control, and stubbornly pursued the unsustainable policy of rounding up and removing wild horses from the range and warehousing them in government holding facilities. In 2014, the BLM spent less than one percent of its budget on fertility control; and in 2015, expenditures on fertility control were reduced further to a small fraction of one percent of the budget.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.  

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Debra Davenport are being represented by the public interest Washington D.C. law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.