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Wild Horse Removal

A young wild horse trots across the prairie last year in Sweetwater County.

Gov. Matt Mead won't back down after federal officials and wild horse advocates filled a motion to dismiss Wyoming's lawsuit to require what they consider proper management practices.

The State of Wyoming filed suit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in December in an effort to force the removal of excess wild horses from herd management areas the agency manages.

State officials say the BLM is breaking the law with improper management, but wild horse advocates say the Wyoming's case is baseless.

“The lawsuit asks that BLM be directed to follow the law,” Mead said. “These motions to dismiss claim Wyoming is trying to rewrite the law – this is inaccurate. BLM has failed to remove excess horses in accordance with the law in seven Wyoming herd management areas.” 

Mead said mustang herd growth could occur at rates ranging from 25 percent to 58 percent annually on federal, state and private lands.

The BLM removed 1,263 horses from the checkerboard lands of southwest Wyoming last year. That removal was the result of a federal court decree that required proper management levels of 500 wild horses in the affected herd management areas.

Advocates from the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and Cloud Foundation say the state's case to review BLM management actions doesn't provide a specific action for review.

"Petitioners fail to set forth viable grounds upon which a court could declare BLM has violated the WHA and the APA, and thereby order BLM to 'take immediate action' to remove wild horses from the public lands in Wyoming," the groups wrote in their motion for dismissal.

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The groups' attorneys wrote the state's case off as an attempt to force Congress to rewrite the federal Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.

Mead said the lawsuit is not an attempt at change. He said the case is an attempt to hold the federal government accountable for wild horses' impact on Wyoming range lands that support sage grouse and big game species.

“BLM’s failure to manage the horses has forced Wyoming to court because excess horses threaten the range and the animals that rely on it," Mead said. "The court should deny these motions to dismiss.” 

Advocates await the U.S. District Court ruling as the BLM begins seeking bids to hold wild horses on private land.

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Follow reporter Trevor Graff on Twitter @TrevGraff.

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