RENO, Nev. (CN) - The Bureau of Land Management won't be able to round up 332 wild horses in western Nevada and dose mares with birth control drugs after a federal judge preliminarily enjoined it on Wednesday.
Animal-rights groups sued the BLM on Jan. 29 to try to stop the roundup and "forced drugging of mares."
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks on Wednesday approved a motion for preliminary injunction filed by the Friends of Animals and Protect Mustangs groups.
They claimed the BLM plan to round up 332 horses in the Pine Nut Herd Management area near Carson City and remove 200 of them violated the National Environmental Protection Act and Administrative Procedure Act.
The BLM also planned to administer a fertility-control drug to all mares older than 1 and return them to the herd on the 90,000-acre management area.
Judge Hicks ruled: "It is undisputed that the BLM did not prepare a separate environmental assessment before their Dec. 19, 2014, decision to gather horses in the Pine Nut Herd Management Area."
Hicks said the BLM relied on a 2010 environmental assessment and finding of no significant environmental impact when making recent decision.
The BLM said that "the large number of excess horses is having a negative effect on certain grazing areas, causing a loss of other wildlife habitat, and is harming the herd itself," Hicks wrote. "It is these dangers that have caused the BLM to seek permanent removal of 200 wild horses from the Pine Nut Herd Management Area as well as fertility dosing of returning females."
But the judge said the BLM "made its roundup decision without conducting an adequate analysis," as required by the National Environmental Protection Act, and that there is "insufficient legal basis for the BLM to rely upon the 2010 environmental assessment" and finding of no significant impact.
He found that the animal-rights groups "have established that if the BLM implements its roundup, it will cause significant and irreparable harm," and that they provided proof "that the roundup will cause plaintiffs to lose their positive personal connection with the wild horses in the Pine Nut Herd Management Area."
The judge said the preliminary injunction is in the public's interest and will last until the court can rule on the matter or the BLM prepares an "appropriate environmental assessment analyzing the proposed gather."
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