Horse Supporters Cannot Fight Removal Too Early

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Environmentalists cannot pre-empt a plan to remove wild horses from the Colorado wilderness, a federal judge ruled.
     The Bureau of Land Management decided in 2005 to remove a herd of wild horses west of Douglas Creek in Colorado, prompting a lawsuit from the Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition.
     U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer dismissed the case as not ripe Thursday, noting that a delay in action will not harm the coalition.
     “Given that BLM must complete an environmental assessment and propose a separate decision record before any gather of horses in the West Douglas Herd, the 2005 Decision Record has no immediate effect,” Collyer wrote. “If BLM issues a new gather plan, plaintiffs ‘will have ample opportunity later to bring [their] legal challenge at a time when harm is more imminent and more certain.”
     The opinion comes two years after Collyer ruled that a separate planned gather of wild horses west of Douglas Creek in northwestern Colorado violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. That ruling found that the BLM issued its 2008 decision to remove wild horses before determining that they overpopulated the area.
     Back then, the bureau planned to remove the horses by helicopter drive trapping, helicopter-assisted roping, water trapping and bait trapping.
     Collyer found that the plan would harm on members of the coalition who would no longer be able to observe the horses.
     Though the group could stand to suffer the same injury in this case, Collyer decided that the parties were not quite at that stage in the game.
     The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act makes it a federal crime to kill or harass a roaming horse or burro, and calls the animals “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.”
     Federal officials say horse removal is necessary to manage animals on public lands. Once removed, the horses are transferred into adoption or long-term care, it says.
     The government first called for wild-horse removal in 1980 from the area that lies on 120,000 acres west of Douglas Creek because energy exploration pushed horses into surrounding, non-protected areas. The horses remained in the area after an unsuccessful removal attempt.

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