Advocates Win in Court on Behalf of Saylor Creek Wild Horses

Great news for a wild horse herd in Idaho thanks to legal efforts by The American Wild Horse Campaign, The Cloud Foundation, and Return To Freedom with Virginia Hudson.

Here is an excerpt from their press release:

Photo credit: Chad and Lynn Hanson

The decision finds that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in a variety of ways in deciding to sterilize the entire Saylor Creek herd. The court agreed that BLM violated NEPA by failing to consider the National Academy of Science (NAS) report, by failing to adequately respond to public comments, by failing to consider reasonable alternatives, and by failing to consider inconsistency between sterilization and the agency’s duties to maintain self-sustaining and free-roaming herds. This precedent-setting decision is a major win in that it could make it difficult to sterilize healthy herds elsewhere in the west.

This case challenged a controversial and precedent-setting plan by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) to permanently sterilize an entire herd of wild horses in the Saylor Creek Herd Management Area (“HMA”) — an action that would have disrupted and destroyed the natural, wild, and free-roaming behavior of these horses, as well as the social organization and long-term viability of the herd to which they belong. The BLM authorized sterilizing this wild horse herd in its recently approved Jarbidge Resource Management Plan (“RMP”).

Judge Lodge’s decision states, “The BLM has not considered nor explained how the herd will maintain its wild horse instincts, behaviors, and social structure if it is entirely non-reproducing. Further, the BLM has not taken a hard look at how the introduction of horses from holding pens, where they may have become domesticated and reliant on humans, or from other herds that are unfamiliar with the area and terrain will impact the herd and its wild horse behaviors and survival instincts. In sum, the BLM has failed to consider, in the FEIS, any of these significant impacts on the Saylor Creek herd’s behaviors or on the HMAs environment itself. The Court, therefore, finds the BLM violated NEPA by failing to take the requisite “hard look” at these aspects of the decision.”

Most importantly, this precedent-setting decision will allow for future decisions in favor of wild horses that the BLM wishes to sterilize. “This decision recognizes that the BLM must carefully consider the harmful impacts of sterilization on wild horses’ behavior and herd dynamics,” said Nick Lawton, the attorney with the public interest law firm Meyer Glitzenstein & Eubanks, LLP who represented the plaintiffs.