Tenth Circuit Blasts BLM For Violating Two Federal Laws That Apply To Wild Horses On Public Lands

As we blogged on October 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit announced at that time that it had decided to rule in our favor on a precedent-setting issue concerning wild horse management on public lands.  Today, the court issued its more detailed written ruling in which it criticized as contrary to the plain language of the law the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) recent attempts to treat more than a million acres of public land in the Wyoming Checkerboard as private land for purposes of wild horse management.  The “Checkerboard” is a large area in Wyoming that consists of alternating parcels of public and private lands.  As the court held, “there is simply no ambiguity in the terms ‘public lands,’ ‘privately owned land,’ and ‘private lands’ that are utilized in Sections 3 and 4 of the [Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros] Act, and in turn no basis for BLM to construe the terms ‘privately owned land’ and ‘private lands’ to include the public land sections of the Checkerboard.”  The court also held that BLM violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act by reducing these wild horse populations on public land below their legally enforceable population minimums that are set forth in resource management plans.  The ruling can be found here.