RENO, Nev. (AP) - The U.S. Bureau of Land Management was given
the green light on Tuesday to move ahead with a controversial horse
roundup in Nevada when a federal appeals court lifted a temporary
injunction blocking the gather of more than 1,700 mustangs.
An animal rights group, the Colorado-based Cloud Foundation, had
sued to stop the roundup. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco said the group had failed to show it could prove the roundup is illegal and that removal of horses from federally protected public rangeland would cause irreparable harm.
Critics said another disappointing loss in federal court suggested Congress may have to pass a new law to protect the mustangs because the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act of 1971 doesn't seem to be enforceable.
"We need a new law," said Rachel Fazio, a lawyer for the Cloud
Foundation who had won the temporary restraining order from a judge
on the appellate court based on claims the proposed roundup was
"I think we really need to establish the fact that these animals need to be protected, need to be maintained unmolested by man. And that we mean it this time," she told The Associated Press.
BLM officials did not immediately return a call seeking comment. They indicated earlier that if the injunction was lifted, they would begin within days the roundup intended to start more than a week ago in northeast Nevada, near the Utah line.
The Cloud Foundation argued late Monday that the emergency order
should remain in place until the government proves the mustangs are
causing ecological damage to the range. They said an unusually wet
spring has left most public rangeland in northern Nevada with plenty of water and forage.
Fazio said that at worst, the appellate court should allow only a small gather to begin while they make their case that there's no scientific basis to support the roundup of more than 1,700 horses.
BLM officials argued the delay was costing taxpayers money.
They said that while some rangeland was in good condition, that would change come winter and that the size of horse herds will double every five years if unchecked.
The federal appeals court intends to hear the merits of the case. It set an Aug. 12 deadline for the Cloud Foundation to file its formal case appealing U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben's refusal on July 15 to block the roundup.
BLM will have a month to reply before any hearing is set.
Fazio said that means the gather will be over by the time the critics get their day in court.
"That's the way it always goes," she said.
She said in past cases, judges have ruled such challenges are moot because the roundup had concluded by then.