Court Rules on Checkerboard Wild Horse Gather
A U.S. District Court in Wyoming has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it gathered wild horses from Wyoming’s so-called Checkerboard area, but that the agency did not violate the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act by gathering the animals.
The 1971 act federally protects wild horses and burros residing in western states and places them in the BLM’s jurisdiction. In recent years, some ranchers have filed lawsuits alleging that, under BLM management, wild herds have caused ecological damage to rangelands also used to graze domestic livestock. Some states’ governments’ have also joined or initiated lawsuits alleging that herds have caused damage that threatens the ecological balance of wildlife residing on rangelands.
Last fall, the BLM began removing wild horses from the Checkerboard—a part of the range where private, federal, and state lands intermingle—to comply with a consent decree between the bureau and owners of livestock that also graze the rangelands. Subsequently, some wild horse advocates filed a lawsuit alleging that the BLM failed to conduct an environmental study before the gather took place.
On March 3, Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal ruled that the agency violated the NEPA because it conducted the gather in the absence of an environmental analysis and related public
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