Judge Allows BLM to Continue Emergency Mustang Gather

A federal judge has ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) may continue an emergency roundup of wild horses currently under way in a drought-stricken portion of the Jackson Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA) in Nevada, but that the agency cannot use helicopters to gather animals in non-emergency sectors of the HMA.

Earlier this month, the BLM began an emergency gather of 630 wild horses from the HMA near Winnemucca. Due to persistent drought conditions, the roundup began one month before the end of foaling season, which typically extends through the end of June. Subsequently, wild horse advocate Laura Leigh, director and founder of Wild Horse Education, a website that chronicles Leigh's observations of gathers and related events, filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. District Court in Nevada to halt the gather on grounds that it violates BLM policy to avoid gathering animals during foaling season and that the use of helicopters puts the animals at risk for injury or death.

BLM Spokesperson JoLynn Worley said that on June 20, U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben denied Leigh's motion to halt the use of helicopters to gather animals from the most drought affected, so-called emergency, southern portion of the Jackson Mountain HMA. However, McKibben ruled that the agency cannot use helicopters before July 1 to gather animals from the non-emergency area in the northern portion of the HMA, Worley said.

Gene Seidlitz, BLM Winnemucca district manager, said McKibben's ruling recognized that emergency conditions in the southern area of the HMA required the agency to gather the animals.

Leigh called McKibben's ruling preventing the use of helicopters to gather mustangs from the northern portion of the HMA a victory for the animals.

"The Honorable Judge McKibben is beginning to comprehend that BLM will justify an action and then use that justification to take action where they have no justifiable reason," Leigh said. "That is a massive victory."

About the Author

Pat Raia

Pat Raia is a veteran journalist who enjoys covering equine welfare, industry, and news. In her spare time, she enjoys riding her Tennessee Walking Horse, Sonny.

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