Animal Advocates Sue U.S. Forest Service over California Horses

Posted on March 24, 2014

Wild Horses Couldn’t Drag Away Broad Coalition of Groups Filing Suit against Feds

For immediate release:


Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

wild-horses-USDA-article-image-500pxSAN FRANCISCO — Today, 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.


22 thoughts on “Animal Advocates Sue U.S. Forest Service over California Horses

  1. Erin MOck says:

    These horses aren’t hurting anything, just let them be. They are far less intrusive and destructive than humans!

  2. Jón Gíslason says:

    This is disgraceful !

  3. Trudy Bendetti says:

    STOP! The human race is so destructive. Why do we destroy all that is beautiful in this world. Leave them be!

  4. Wendy says:

    When will the government learn that messing up nature only hurts every bein on earth? Let the wild be!!! Control mankind’s population and by doing so maybe it’s not too late for nature to make a come back.

  5. MA Moore says:

    According to the Wild Free-Roaming Horse & Burro Act of 1971 “It is the policy of Congress that wild free-roaming horses and burros shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment or death; and to accomplish this they are to be considered in the area where they are presently found as an integral part of the natural system of the public lands”. Thank you ALDF!!! Go get em!!!

  6. Scott Pezzano says:

    Too much government.

  7. cheryl bowe says:

    I believe it is more a matter of the cattlemen wanting free use of the land. It is proven scientifically that horses help the ecology in that seeds are dispersed and take sprout in their manure, thus rejuvenating the land, whereas cattle and sheep totally digest the seeds. But as with all of this, it is a matter of money, not about what is right or best. Leave the horses on our public land.

    1. linda boswell says:

      I couldn’t agree more!

  8. Tracy Briney says:

    Why does the government think they should own everything? Horses, land, buffalos you name it.

  9. Maralee Kilts says:

    They should be left alone. This is their home. The government needs to stop sticking their nose into everything. There is absolutely no reason to harass these animals.

  10. Rita E. McKenzie says:

    The wild horses are an important part of our American heritage. They are on their range, if something must be taken off the range take the cattle and sheep off the wild horse range. Leave our wild horses alone. Let them stay wild and free. Thank you.

  11. Vicki Vieau says:

    The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

    Mahatma Gandhi

  12. Nancy Albin says:

    Please attend April 14-15, 2014 Sacramento Expo 2:pm to meet with BLM meeting to well I’ll get the correct info don’t have it at the moment

  13. linda boswell says:

    Way to go, ALDF!!!! Go get ’em….

  14. Becky Hines says:

    They just should leave all wild animals in their own habitate.

  15. kaye gonzalez says:

    let them run free as God intended he put them on this earth for a reason which is not to harm them in any way

  16. Debbie Flynn says:

    Just leave them alone! They are wild and not hurting anyone!

  17. Mark Matthews says:

    Follow the money. The ranchers want wild horses gone and will pay to get the job done. Or more specifically heap campaign contributions on, hold fund raisers for state legislators who will orders from ranchers. This is special interest – expose them and vote them out. Get political for horses, for ALL animals.

  18. LOU HOGAN says:

    God bless you ALDF and Co Counsels Caldwell Leslie and law firm Glitzenstein & Crystal for not letting them get away with lining their pockets with the almighty dollar…

  19. Aundrea Cervi says:

    If only for once we could just leave something be! Those animals are on protected territory and live on that land you have no right destroying that! Way to go ALDF! There are still some folks with common sense after all!

  20. I am so sick and tired of the BLM not doing their job! They are suppose to take care of our Wild Horses! They have done nothing but round them up,and put them in Holding Shelters. This has caused cruelty and lots of deaths of our horses! BLM has also sent our horses to Auction where the killer buyers come and buy them and take them across the border to Mexico or Canada for Slaughter! This really sickens me! Our horses have been brutely butchered and their meat sent to European Countries! This has to STOP!!!!Our horses are suppose to be on the land rightly theirs since 1971.

  21. Christie Finn says:

    Our wild horses and burros are no longer being managed under the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act. On October 2, 2005, the 1997 Update of the International Plant Protection Act went into force. In 1996 the FAO met in Rome to redraft this treaty. The word animal was added to the types of species that could be considered as species of plant pests. Moreover, the language of the treaty was altered in such a way that it would also include 1992 UN Covention of Biological Diversity, Article 8 (h) instructing parties to the Convention to prevent, control, and eradicate alien species in states of parts of states where they occur. The IPPC’s mission is to protect plants from invasive plant and animal species that are pests of plants. See the international invasive species compendium at the CABI, the USDA’s federal law on invasive species from international treaties, and President Clinton’s February 3, 1999, E.O. 13112, The Alien Species Act to create a national invasive species program. The necessity of using international treaties and an executive order to find a way to override federal law appears to be a deliberate attempt to circumvent Congressional, public, and the mainstream scientific community that would have questioned the listed of horses and burros as a non-native species to the U.S. first appearing in the 1993 OTA Report on Harmful, Non-Indigenous Species to the United States. While this might seem difficult to pull off, Vice-President Gore had the services of Harvard connected members of the IUCN and The Nature Conservancy. This is supposed to be based on science, but even in the initial reports, the authors do not cite sources to verify that the species that claimed did not originate in North America were actually non-native. This is a major flaw if the consequence for the species is eradication. Mark Sagoff has written an excellent critique of the science, but he is not the only one.

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