KBR Wild Horse and Burro Rumor Control

AMBA Files Injunction Against BLM
Bulletin date- Sept 10, 1998

Much has been said and rumored recently about legal action taken by the American Mustang and Burro Association (AMBA) and the Dept. of Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM). To establish some sense of factuality in this emotionally charged issue, the Wildhorses group and the KBR World of Wild Horses and Burros has asked both the AMBA and BLM to explain their positions in this matter.

Position Statement of the AMBA
by Jason C. Randall

On September 3, 1998, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) finished rounding up about 77 of what they claim are approximately 137 wild horses remaining in Colorado's West Douglas Herd Area. This roundup was in furtherance of BLM's plan to completely eliminate, or "zero out" the wild horse population of the West Douglas Herd Area. BLM scheduled the horses for immediate adoption on September 5, 1998.

On September 4, 1998, the American Mustang and Burro Association (AMBA) filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Washington, DC, challenging BLM's action. AMBA asked the federal court to stop BLM from turning the 77 horses over to adopters until the court had reviewed the merits of the case. AMBA argued that (1) Congress did not give BLM authority to "zero out" a herd area, (2) BLM's determination that a mere 137 wild horses had caused poor soil and grass conditions on the entire 150,000 acres of the West Douglas Herd Area was ludicrous, and (3) BLM's claim that the 77 horses it removed were "excess" was arbitrary and capricious because it was based on incomplete and erroneous data.

AMBA's concern was that the remnant of the West Douglas herd that BLM left on the range was insufficient to maintain the genetic viability of the herd. This particular herd occupies a very rugged terrain and the individual horses have become uniquely well adapted to foraging in difficult country. Many of the horses are the sturdy "Spanish Barb" type. Since most captured male horses are gelded shortly after capture, they would cease to be available as breeding stock. Even if AMBA ultimately won the lawsuit, BLM would have succeeded because the herd would be disbanded and unable to reconstitute itself.

To prevent this from happening, AMBA asked the court for a temporary restraining order preventing BLM from adopting out the West Douglas Herd Area horses until after an evidentiary hearing. The court declined to stop the scheduled adoption, but put into effect certain restrictions on adopting the horses. These restrictions, which include a ban on gelding male horses and a promise to return horses if AMBA won the case, were designed to let AMBA undo the effect of BLM's roundup if AMBA prevails.

AMBA has participated in an eight year long effort to convince BLM that the West Douglas and North Piceance Herd Areas should not be eliminated, but should instead be managed to include the wild horses.

AMBA's involvement with the West Douglas Herd Area began when we first learned, in about 1989, that West Douglas and North Piceance Herd Areas were slated for total removal. Naturita had already been "zeroed out" at that time and the Douglas Mountain herd of over 600 horses had been wiped out, with the last few hold outs being shot.

In 1992, we, along with other concerned citizens, met in Rangely with ranchers, representatives of the oil and gas industry and the BLM to voice our opposition to this action. Ranchers seemed open at that time to maintaining a small herd of "about 75 horses" and oil and gas representatives saw no conflict with wild horses and said their employees in the field enjoyed seeing them.

We filed a Motion to Stay the 1992 West Douglas wild horse gather, which was later withdrawn after the BLM Area Manager, Curt Smith, agreed not to gather horses from West Douglas until a new Resource Management Plan was developed (the previous one having been done in 1981).

We were told by BLM that our wishes would be taken into serious consideration.

AMBA responded to the draft RMP in 1995 and to the proposed RMP in 1996. West Douglas and North Piceance Herd Areas were still slated for total removal.

In 1996 we filed a Motion to Stay and an Appeal of the West Douglas gather to prevent irreparable damage to the genetic viability of that herd by a gather aimed toward the eventual elimination of it. We have as yet to hear a ruling on that Appeal.

Our organization has tried to discuss the fate of these areas with the Colorado State Director, the Area Manager and Wild Horse Specialist, and to present our concerns to the National BLM office and to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board.

We now see a court ruling as our last resort to preserve the marvelous horses and this unique area, rich in history, where mounted Utes met Spanish explorers Escalante and Dominguez in 1776 and where native American pictographs decorate many canyon walls, as the rightful home, under the law, of these wild horses whose history predates the livestock industry here.

We also seek a ruling that will stop the arbitrary decision by the BLM not to manage horses in nearly half of the Herd Areas occupied by horses in 1971.

This case was not filed frivolously, but has involved many hours over the past 8+ years of research and observations on the range. AMBA members spend countless hours trying to protect and preserve the wild horses and burros, both on the range and after gather and adoption, and welcome informed comments that will assist us in serving the needs of our wild friends. We are their stewards!

Thanks, Jason, for contrbuting this explanation. Jason also supplied a mission statement for the AMBA which can be viewed by clicking Here.

We also expect a statement from the BLM. We will do our best to keep everyone informed.

This is not a BLM site. It is run by wild horse and burro enthusiasts.

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