Safari Club International (SCI) defeated the animal rights group In Defense of Animals in a major court battle over management of feral populations of horses in accordance with federal law. On November 15, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California rejected the horse groups’ claims that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) gather of the excess wild horses and burros violated federal law. The case focused on the Twin Peaks Horse Management Area (HMA), located on the northern border of California and Nevada. The BLM conducted the gather during August and September 2010, after SCI joined the BLM in defeating the horse groups’ emergency request to halt the gather.
Before the gather, the horse and burro populations on the Twin Peaks Horse Management Area (HMA) were approximately four times higher than scientifically established appropriate management levels. The excess horses and burros were damaging the ecosystem and harming resident wildlife, including game mammals and birds. Without management action to lower the horse numbers, these detrimental ecosystem impacts would only escalate. The overpopulation problems at the Twin Peaks HMA are symptomatic of conditions on public lands throughout the American West. SCI and other conservation advocates are working on strategies and regulatory policies to rationally address the problems.
“For the third time in a wild horse case, SCI has represented the interests of hunters in this thorny issue,” said John Whipple, President of Safari Club International. “The BLM must take action when horses threaten to seriously degrade the range and harm other wildlife, including game animals and birds. As ardent hunter-conservationists, we cannot allow horse zealots to use the courts to foist their single-minded agenda on land managers in the West.”
“We are extremely pleased that the court has upheld BLM’s ability in the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area to responsibly manage horse populations based on sound science. Responsible herd management is a vital component to the health and sustainability of our land and wildlife habitat for the future,” stated Gene Schmidt, President, National Association of Conservation Districts.
“As it has done in other wild horse cases, SCI intervened as a party to defend the gather and subsequent relocation of the excess horses and burros to long-term holding facilities. SCI would like to thank all of our coalition colleagues who advocate for ecosystem wide conservation goals on public lands,” concluded Whipple.
In ruling against the plaintiffs, the Court heavily relied on an argument made solely by SCI to reject one of the horse groups’ primary legal claims. SCI’s briefs and arguments at the hearing on the case enhanced the excellent defense offered by the BLM and its attorneys. The plaintiffs now have 60 days to decide whether to appeal their loss to the Ninth Circuit.
Image courtesy Safari Club International