BLM Gallops Ahead With Wild Horse Eradication Plan Amid Ongoing Litigation

wild horses - photo by BLM/Nevada/Kyle Hendrix
photo by Kyle Hendrix/BLM

Washington, DC—Last week, Eubanks & Associates, on behalf of petitioners the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), American Wild Horse Conservation (AWHC), Western Watersheds Project (WWP), and others, notified the US District Court of Wyoming that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is rapidly moving forward with its plan to remove over 4,000 wild horses from the range, despite previously arguing to the court that the groups’ lawsuit was not timely because the agency had not reached a final decision on the removals.

The June 13 filing came less than a week after the BLM released a scoping notice for an environmental assessment to implement contested Resource Management Plan amendments. These amendments changed the status of the Salt Wells Creek and Great Divide Basin habitat from Herd Management Areas (where the agency manages the land for the benefit of wild equines) to Herd Areas (where wild equines are no longer permitted). The scoping notice stated that the removal of 4,876 horses could start as early as October 1, 2024.

In a lawsuit filed last year, AWI and the other plaintiffs argued that the BLM’s record of decision to amend the two Resource Management Plans violates the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. The BLM countered that, absent a specific removal decision from the agency, the petitioners’ argument was not yet “ripe” for adjudication by the court. 

The lawsuit was the culmination of a decade-long battle to defend the wild horses of the Wyoming Checkerboard against demands by the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA) to remove these animals from more than 2 million acres of land in the southwestern part of the state. RSGA members graze private livestock on the public lands within the Checkerboard, and wild horses are competition for cheap forage available through tax-subsidized grazing fees.

“The BLM's aggressive insistence on removing these federally protected wild horses not only is misguided but also blatantly disregards the legal protections to which these animals are afforded under the law,” said Joanna Grossman, PhD, equine program director and senior policy advisor at AWI. “In issuing the scoping notice for the looming eradication of horses from these public lands, the BLM has only reinforced why we must urgently hold the agency accountable.” 

“The new filing underscores our grave concerns about the Bureau of Land Management's disregard for the legal process and the welfare of wild horses,” said Suzanne Roy, executive director of AWHC. “Despite ongoing litigation, the BLM is pushing forward with a plan that would devastate these historic populations. This plan not only undermines the spirit of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act but also jeopardizes the future of these cherished symbols of the American West.”

“The BLM's plan to eradicate whole herds of Wyoming’s wild horses from lands that show no evidence of horse-caused degradation reflects a troubling preoccupation with maximizing cattle and sheep numbers on public lands with total disregard for the public interest,” said Erik Molvar, executive director of WWP. “This shortsighted focus on maximizing livestock undermines biodiversity as well as the integrity of our public lands.”

 “Accordingly, while this case was plainly ripe before now, BLM’s new scoping statement that makes clear wild horses will be forcibly, permanently removed from the public range in several months as a result of the RMP amendments challenged here only further underscores that this case is justiciable and cannot get any riper,” Eubanks & Associates wrote in the notice filed on behalf of the petitioners.

Oral arguments in this case are scheduled for July 16 in Wyoming. Other plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Dr. Chad Hanson, and wild horse photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl.

Media Contact Information

Marjorie Fishman, Animal Welfare Institute
202-446-2128, [email protected]

Amelia Perrin, American Wild Horse Conservation
919-619-4913, [email protected]

Erik Molvar, Western Watersheds Project
307-399-7910, [email protected]

The Animal Welfare Institute is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere—in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. Follow us on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), and Instagram for updates and other important animal protection news.

American Wild Horse Conservation (AWHC) is the nation’s leading nonprofit wild horse conservation organization, with more than 700,000 supporters and followers nationwide. AWHC is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse and burros in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. In addition to advocating for the protection and preservation of America’s wild herds, AWHC implements the largest wild horse fertility control program in the world through a partnership with the State of Nevada for wild horses that live in the Virginia Range near Reno. 

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation group dedicated to protecting and restoring wildlife and watersheds throughout the American West. 

Eubanks & Associates, PLLC is a public interest environmental law firm that specializes in strategic impact litigation in federal courts throughout the United States.