Lawsuit fights horse roundup

Thursday, Sept. 15, 2011 12:09 AM

Wild horse advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court Wednesday seeking an injunction to halt a roundup of wild horses in the Spring Creek Basin scheduled for today and Friday.

The lawsuit, filed by Telluride-based attorney Diane Wolfson, names U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey, Dolores Public Lands Office Field Officer Connie Clementson, and BLM Colorado State Director Sally Wisely as defendants and asks the roundup be stopped based on allegedly illegal actions on the part of the BLM, including a failure to comply with public notice requirements and provide adequate evidence and justification for the removal of wild horses from federally protected lands.

“The purpose of the lawsuit is to challenge everything about the roundup, from the inhumaneness of the helicopter and the trap pens used to separate horse bands, to the short-term and long-term holding pens,” Wolfson said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

The last-minute nature of the filing resulted after Wolfson saw a screening of the film “Wild Horses and Renegades” in Telluride a week and a half ago. The film specifically follows the herd in Disappointment Valley north of Dove Creek. Director James Anaquad-Kleinert, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, alleges in the film that the upcoming roundup threatens the herd with extinction, Wolfson said. Other plaintiffs are Spirit Riders Foundation of New Mexico, and David Glynn, a private citizen from Ophir, Colo.

“The range has been systematically decreasing so the horses have less than half the area they started with, which is a violation of the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burro Act,” Wolfson said. “And right now the population of this herd is too small genetically to be viable.”

The Spring Creek Basin Herd Management Area is a 21,932-acre area managed for the horse herd. The current estimated population of the horses in the area is roughly 90. Management of the area dictates the herd stay between 35 and 65 wild horses. BLM plans to gather roughly 60 horses this week. Twenty-five to 30 of the gathered horses will be offered for adoption at the Montezuma County Fairgrounds on Saturday, Sept. 24.

Due to the last-minute suit, Wolfson acknowledges the roundup might not be stopped if the court does not respond before the roundup is complete. If that is the case, the suit seeks a court order requiring the horses not be removed from the Spring Creek area and be returned to the herd, prohibiting the scheduled adoption.

BLM officials were not immediately available for comment late Wednesday afternoon.

Reach Kimberly Benedict at