The beloved Pryor Mountain wild horses of Montana, the last wild horse herd in Montana, will no longer be assaulted by Bureau of Land Management roundups following Friends of Animals’ (FoA) victory in court in July.
U.S. District Judge Susan P. Watters ruled in favor of Friends of Animals’ in a lawsuit the group brought against the agency last year when it announced the round-up and permanent removal of 20 young wild horses between the ages of 1 and 3 in the Pryor Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) and the continual removal of six to 12 wild horses on an annual basis.
“We are thrilled the court didn’t let the BLM get away with violating the law. Judge Watters’ decision in Friends of Animals’ lawsuit recognizes that BLM was removing wild horses from the Pryor Mountains before considering a reasonable alternative—determining what the appropriate population for the area is and whether the range could potentially support more wild horses,” said Jennifer Best, associate director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “Judge Waters also ruled in Friends of Animals’ favor that the BLM could not ignore its promise to the public to do a more thorough analysis of the Appropriate Management Level (AML) before removing wild horses. I hope this decision sends a signal to BLM that it cannot get away with ignoring its commitments and duties to protect these amazing wild animals, who are actually underpopulated.”
The lawsuit stated that the BLM had based the Pryor Mountain Removal Decision on an outdated 2009 Herd Management Area Plan that established an AML of 90-120 wild horses. The AML was based on a 2007 range evaluation, which the BLM was supposed to recalculate within five years (by 2014). BLM admitted that it has not re-calculated the AML since its 2009 decision.
“The Bureau of Land Management has continually cut corners and failed to keep its commitments when it comes to protecting America’s wild horses in its rush to remove horses from public lands to placate cattle and sheep ranchers,” added Michael Harris, director of FoA’s Wildlife Law Program. “BLM violated the law at the expense of the wild horses and Friends of Animals is satisfied that it can be an effective voice for the wild horses and can hold BLM accountable for its commitments.”
Last year, when the Billings, Montana, Field Office asked for comments about its proposed roundup and removal—nearly all of the youth of the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Herd—FoA delivered comments in person and presented the “Worst Government Agency” award to the Billings’ staff for treating wild horses as pests that need to be controlled. We also spent six hours driving in the Pryor Mountain Range in search of wild horses, and were mortified to see only five mustangs among 24,641 acres. It’s more evidence that BLM inflates their numbers and undermines the value and rightful place of wild horses on federal public lands to appease the ranchers it treats as clients.
This government agency has already ruined the lives of hundreds of thousands of wild horses—it has zeroed out six of seven wild horse Herd Areas in Montana—and it won't be happy until the most famous herd in North America is dead and gone. FoA refuses to go along with the agency’s extinction plan.