(CN) – A federal judge declined to dismiss a lawsuit over the famous wild stallions of Pryor Mountain in Montana. A federal agency began rounding up some of the horses last year to counteract overpopulation.
The Cloud Foundation, a Colorado nonprofit, and other animal welfare groups accused the government of violating federal environmental laws after the Bureau of Land Management rounded up 57 of 190 wild horses on the mountain range in late 2009.
In an amended complaint, the groups challenged the government’s plan to construct a fence that would keep the remaining herd from damaging public land.
The groups say the fence would injure horses and prevent them from roaming freely.
In response, the government argued the challenge was barred under the six-year statute of limitations because the fence was first proposed in 1987. Recent developments on the fence merely reflect an alteration of existing construction, the government argued.
U.S. District Judge James Gwin declined to put the cart before the horse, so to speak, finding that the groups “properly and timely stated a claim.”
The government also tried to persuade the judge to transfer the case to a Montana court from Washington, D.C.
But Gwin rejected that motion as well, writing that the Montana court’s interest in presiding over all Pryor boundary claims do not merit transfer.
Gwin also backed the groups’ claim that excluding certain parts of the range from the plan was unlawful, noting that the court had already rejected the government’s attempt to dismiss that claim.
The wild horses at Pryor became known as “Cloud’s herd” after the PBS special, “Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies,” produced by Cloud Foundations director Ginger Kathrens.
“We will never give up fighting to preserve this unique herd,” Kathrens said in statement earlier this year. “They have a right to live free on lands we know they have continuously roamed for centuries. Attempting to fence them out of their home is unconscionable.”