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Judge Tosses Challenge|to Wild Horse Roundup

(CN) - A federal judge in Washington, D.C., dismissed the last remnants of a lawsuit challenging the government's roundup last winter of 2,000 wild horses in western Nevada.

U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said the claims filed by animal-rights activists were largely moot, because the roundup already took place between December 2009 and February 2010.

Bureau of Land Management agents herded about 2,000 horses in Nevada's Calico Mountains Complex into corrals and then transported them to holding facilities in Kansas, Oklahoma and South Dakota, where they awaited sale or adoption.

Animal activists claimed the large-scale roundup violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. They also challenged the agency's decision to keep the horses in holding corrals indefinitely.

The BLM defended the corralling of up to 90 percent of the area's wild horses as a necessary step in managing wild horse populations. A healthy population for the region is between 572 and 952 mustangs, according to the BLM, but more than 3,000 lived in the area before the roundup. The complex north of Reno spans 550,000 acres in Nevada's Humboldt and Washoe counties.

Judge Friedman refused to halt the roundup last December, saying the Wild Horse Act actually requires the agency to "immediately" remove wild horses once their numbers exceed manageable levels.

He said the activists' remaining claims fall into two categories: those challenging the roundup methods and those challenging the horses' relocation to long-term holding corrals.

"Because the gather in question has already occurred, the first category of claims is now moot and thus is not justiciable," Friedman wrote. "Because the plaintiffs have failed to establish a causal link between their asserted injury and BLM's use of long-term holding facilities, they lack standing to bring the second set of claims."

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