SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH… Late last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah granted a motion by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, photographer John Steele and wild horse advocate Lisa Friday to intervene in a lawsuit filed by the Western Rangeland Conservation Association and Utah ranchers against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The lawsuit seeks to compel the BLM to immediately round up hundreds of wild horses in Iron and Beaver Counties so that the ranchers can graze their livestock on public lands in the area.

“Our clients wanted to intervene in the case to defend wild horses from the pro-ranching special interests and prevent the government from acceding to their claims that the horses must be removed from the public lands to protect the private livestock that are allowed to graze on the same lands at taxpayer expense,” said Caitlin Zittkowski, of Meyer, Glitzenstein and Crystal, the Washington-DC based law firm that is representing the groups and individuals intervening in the case.

Last year, the BLM settled a similar legal attack by pro-ranching interests in Wyoming, agreeing to decimate nearly half of the state’s remaining wild horse population.

Under the current Administration, the BLM has rounded up so many wild horses that the number of mustangs stockpiled in government warehouses (50,000) now exceeds the number that remain free in the wild (under 33,000).

BLM, under pressure from Utah ranchers, rounded up 173 wild horses from the Blawn Wash management area in July. The ranchers claim that wild horses are overpopulating the range, even though livestock graze on 22 million acres of land in the state, while wild horses are restricted to just 2.1 million acres. There are fewer than 4,000 wild horses on BLM land in Utah, as compared to hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep. In addition, approximately 80 percent of forage on the small amount of land designated as wild horse habitat in Utah is allocated to privately-owned livestock instead of to federally-protected wild horses.

National opinion polls indicate that 80 percent of Americans oppose horse slaughter, 72 percent support protecting wild horses on public lands, and just 29 percent want public lands used for livestock grazing.

Last year, the National Academy of Sciences endorsed a fertility control vaccine known as PZP as a viable alternative to the roundup and removal of wild horses from the range. Despite this, the BLM has failed to implement fertility control and stubbornly pursued the unsustainable policy of rounding up and removing wild horses from the range and warehousing them in government holding facilities. In 2013, the BLM spent less than one percent of its budget on fertility control.

The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC) is a coalition of more than 50 horse advocacy, public interest, and conservation organizations dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage.

The Cloud Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and protection of wild horses and burros on our Western public lands with a focus on protecting Cloud’s herd in the Pryor Mountains of Montana. Cloud is the subject of Foundation founder Ginger Kathrens’ groundbreaking PBS/Nature documentaries.

Return to Freedom (RTF) is a national non-profit dedicated to wild horse preservation through sanctuary, education and conservation, and also operates the American Wild Horse Sanctuary in Lompoc, CA. It is also AWHPC’s founding organization.

John Steele is a noted wildlife and nature photographer who frequently photographs Utah’s wild horse herds.

Lisa Friday is a Virginia resident, wild horse adopter and board member for The Cloud Foundation.

The Cloud Foundation (TCF), American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Return to Freedom, John Steele, and Lisa Friday are being represented by the public interest Washington D.C. law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal.

Photo Credit: Kimerlee Curyl