From IDA’s blog http://www.idablog.org/
Our lead attorney, William J. Spriggs, delivered a very effective oral argument summarizing our case. Cleverly, he began by telling the judge all the problems with the government’s wild horse and burro management program that we were NOT there to discuss, reciting a litany of BLM’s transgressions resulting from its 30-year history of mismanagement. Mr. Spriggs said those issues were for another day, then launched into very effective arguments about our case, specifically why the indiscriminate roundup of thousands of horses off of the Calico range was illegal and the mass warehousing of wild horses in holding facilities in Kansas and other non-Western states was never authorized by Congress.
The Justice Department attorney defending BLM countered by attacking our standing, claiming that the plaintiffs would not be harmed by the removal of 80-90 percent of the horses in the Calico range because there would still be horses left in the Complex. He likened helicopters used in roundups to sheep-herding dogs, and said that individualized, on-the-range determinations of the horses’ conditions could not be made because BLM could not get within a mile of them. The DOJ
attorney then claimed that the overriding mandate of the 1971 Act was the maintenance of a healthy range for multiple purposes, and that the BLM was mandated by law to remove horses. (Mr. Spriggs later remarked to the judge that he wasn’t sure what law the DOJ attorney was referring to, but we were talking about the WILD FREE-ROAMING HORSE and BURRO Act!)
The Honorable Judge Paul Friedman was friendly and engaged throughout the hearing. He asked many excellent questions, and observed that this was an interesting case.
This lawsuit lays bare what we believe are these indisputable facts:
- The BLM is authorized only to round up horses who are both excess and adoptable.
- Congress intended for on-the-range management of the horses, with removal as a last resort, only after other methods of population control have been tried and failed. Yet the BLM has thumbed its nose at this mandate, spending three-quarters of its resources to remove and stockpile horses from their home ranges, and less than 3 percent of its budget on range management activities such as water enhancement and field studies to understand wild horse behavior, biology and social dynamics.
- The long-term holding facilities in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota are patently illegal, because the Secretary of Interior is not authorized to relocate horses to private lands or to lands where they were not found in 1971. The horses in these warehouses have not lost their designation as wild horses nor the federal protections that come with it.
Judge Friedman asked for some additional information on case law, which has been submitted to him, and a decision is expected next week. The threshold for a preliminary injunction is very high, and even if we don’t succeed on this motion, this hugely important case will likely still go forward (we are seeking both a preliminary and a permanent injunction of the Calico roundup).
Excellent coverage of the hearing was provided in an Associated Press story and a superb piece on Channel 8 TV in Las Vegas by stellar investigative reporter George Knapp, whose investigative series, Stampede to Oblivion, is a masterpiece exposing the BLM’s 30-year history of malfeasance, mismanagement and cruelty to our nation’s wild horses.
We are deeply grateful to the Herculean effort of our brilliant legal team from Buchanan, Ingersoll and Rooney — Mr. Spriggs, his partner David Taylor, Ibie Falcuson, Katie Allen, Katie Flood and Marty Scully — launched on behalf of the horses.
We will keep you posted on what happens, and meanwhile — keep your fingers crossed and pray for a good ruling for the wild horses next week!