From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Related Categories: California | Central Valley | U.S. | Animal Liberation | Environment & Forest Defense
Animal Advocates Sue U.S. Forest Service over California Horses
by Animal Legal Defense Fund
Monday Mar 24th, 2014 11:40 PM
SAN FRANCISCO — On March 24, a coalition of animal and environmental groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to stop the U.S. Forest Service from eliminating thousands of acres of protected territory and rounding up as much as 80% of the wild horses in the Devil’s Garden Wild Horse Territory in northeast California’s Modoc National Forest. Roundups mean herding horses into corrals using helicopters and separating them from their families—and frequently leads to their sale for slaughter in Mexico and Canada. Today’s lawsuit asserts that the Forest Service’s decision violates federal animal protection and environmental laws and unlawfully prioritizes ranchers and privately-owned livestock above federally protected wild horses. The lawsuit was filed by the national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) with co-counsel from the Los Angeles-based law firm Caldwell Leslie and the D.C. public interest environmental law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Return to Freedom, and an individual California resident.
In 1971, Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which requires preservation of rangelands on which wild horses exist. Devil’s Garden is officially designated as wild horse territory managed by the Forest Service (a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), which has been the homeland of wild horses for at least 150 years. In August 2013, the Forest Service authorized a decision that will eliminate more than 25,000 acres of wild horse territory and reduce the wild horse population by 80%–yet failed to study the impact of privately-owned cows and sheep who graze in the Devil’s Garden and outnumber wild horses by as much as eight times during the summer. The Forest Service also failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement, or formally amend its governing land and resource management plan, despite the significant change in the environmental and legal status quo, as required by the National Environmental Protection Act and the National Forest Management Act.

“Americans depend on federal agencies to manage public lands for all; instead the Forest Service is protecting the private interests of ranchers over all others,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Wild horses have a legal right to remain in territories designated and protected by acts of Congress.”

“Devil’s Garden is the last large wild horse territory in California,” said Neda DeMayo, founder and CEO of Return to Freedom. “Not only will these changes negatively impact wild horses in Devil’s Garden, but it also raises serious concerns about the long-term genetic viability of these wild horse bands.”

Copies of the lawsuit are available upon request.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Beeline
Friday Mar 28th, 2014 1:09 PM
Horse and burros running around on public land are feral animals descended from domestic stocks from Europe. Adult horses consume about 25% more forage than cows and tend to graze the vegetation lower. Horses and burros are very hard on range lands especially considering the long history of livestock grazing in North America. They also muddy and foul seeps, springs and small creeks important for wildlife use. The have no natural predators.

The Wild horse and burro act essentially mandates federal agencies to maintain more livestock on public lands at tax payer expense. It is a formula for over grazing, soil loss, invasive weeds and wildlife habitat degradation.

BLM and Forest Service managed lands are becoming a giant pasture for feral domestic animals. Range ecology has been past over and ignored and the out come for public lands looks quite dim.

The government through the pressures of public special interest groups are doing to indigenous wildlife what they did to American Indians. Disowning them-starving them-and placing them in continuously shrinking little land boxes because some people are ignorant of ecology and want to live out their fantasies of "freedom" watching a horse run off into the sunset.

This attitude of disregard for native species, the illusions of freedom for one species, and the myth of America being the 'great melting pot' for any foreign species are further degrading what public lands we have left. It seems that killing off the passenger pigeons and nearly killing off the bison was not enough. People want to change North America in their own image one way or another no matter the cost. Icons have become more important than biological reality itself.
by Diana Adams-Cartwright, Esquire
Tuesday Sep 16th, 2014 10:06 PM
One could argue that wild horses are part of the indigenous species that have long populated the western US. They were in this location long before cattle and sheep arrived to devour the grasslands of the west.

Further, said horses truly roam--grazing over large tracts of land with little impact on the natural vegetation if given the opportunity. Unlike bovines and sheep, horses do not graze grasses to the ground, but prefer to crop grasses at the top of the plant, leaving them intact for future growth, as they move on.

Wild horses and burros do have natural predators in the west, as pumas are notorious for attacking them and their foals, thus naturally weeding out the old, lame and many of the young. Wolf reintroduction (which has occurred in much of the west) would also constitute a natural predator.

It appears that there is a profit motive in eliminating/exterminating these historically-indigenous species, replacing them with species that are non-native over-grazers who foul our water and contaminate our air.

If there is truly a concern that these wild horses and burros are destroying our public lands, let's look at the actual consumption of grasslands by these species vs. what is being consumed by the non-native species. Once a truly independent study has been made on this issue, with public hearings duly noticed to ALL interested parties, then, and only then can we settle this dispute in a manner beneficial to all.