By Crystal Guiterrez
PLACITAS, N.M. (KRQE) - The fate of wild horses roaming near Placitas is now in limbo after the tenth circuit court of appeals upheld a ruling against a non-profit fighting to protect them.
The Wild Horse Observers Association sued a private property owner and the Bureau of Land Management claiming both were breaking the law by not doing enough to protect the animals.
A federal judge ruled against the group last year. The tenth circuit upheld the decision earlier this month.
There's growing concern in Placitas after a court of appeals decision means there is no telling if the Bureau of Land Management is obligated to protect an entire wild horse population.
Some residents like Chuck Homer welcome the free-roaming horses.
"We were always excited when we saw them because we would always go, 'Oh look, there's the wild horses,' " Homer said.
However, not everyone does and that's the reason WHOA got involved to try and protect them. The group filed a lawsuit in 2011 against the United States Department of the Interior, BLM and even a private property owner.
WHOA alleged BLM failed to protect and keep inventory of the wild horses under federal law known as the Wild Horses Act. BLM's defense was that their 1971 survey did not show wild horses in Placitas even though there are clearly free-roaming horses there now.
In the end, a U.S. district court judge ruled last year the horse enthusiasts missed a six-year deadline to file the suit.
The court ruled the issues raised in the suit against the private property owner, who allegedly planned to capture and sell the horses, did not fall under the Wild Horses Act for civil action without criminal action first.
That ruling was upheld by the tenth circuit court of appeals earlier this month.
"I'm going to assume the courts know what it's doing," Homer said.
For Homer and some other residents we spoke with, the fight over the wild horses is a tough one.
Some might see them as a nuisance. But there are many who are still worried about their safety and wonder what the court of appeals decision means when it comes to protecting the animals.
"Bottom line, I just wish that the horses could have been left alone and the horses can do their horsey thing throughout Placitas, which was kind of pretty," Homer said.
The president of WHOA sent News 13 a statement saying this fight is not over.
"Placitans continue to overwhelmingly support the wild horses of Placitas 35 to 1, as shown in multiple surveys over the last 12 years. WHOA has in no way exhausted their legal remedies to protect the wild horses of Placitas and their habitat, the beautiful Rocky Mt Wildlife corridor through the Sandias," Patience O'Dowd said.