Precedent-setting court win for wild horses

Wild horses flee during a 2016 helicopter roundup at the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory. Photo by Steve Paige

Return to Freedom, Wild Horse Conservation:

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Aug. 4 overturned an “arbitrary and capricious” decision by the U.S. Forest Service to remove 23,000 acres from the Devil’s Garden Plateau Wild Horse Territory in Northern California.

During the mid-1980s, the Forest Service added the land to the horse territory and later, in 1991, the agency formalized the change as part of the plan for Modoc National Forest. The Forest Service maintained minimum populations of wild horses on these additional lands until December 2012. Then, the Forest Service announced that the expanded acreage for wild horses was “an administrative mistake,” and that it planned to capture and remove all horses from the expanded area.

In its ruling in favor of Return to Freedom and its colleagues, the court declared that “a 23,000-acre tract of land and two decades of agency management cannot be swept under the rug as a mere administrative mistake.”

“There is no ‘oops’ exception to the duty of federal agencies to engage in reasoned decisionmaking,” Judge Patricia Millett wrote for the court.

Read more about the case, including the full decision, here.

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