In Defense of Animals v. Dep’t of the Interior

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 05-12-2014
  • Case #: 12-17804
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bea for the Court; Circuit Judges Schroeder and Rawlinson
  • Full Text Opinion

Under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act the BLM has authority to remove horses and burros when their populations exceed previously designated Appropriate Management Levels within Health Management Areas , further if the BLM provides the pertinent information in a convincing report, an environmental impact statement is not required under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In 1981, the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) designated approximately 800,000 acres surrounding the California-Nevada border as a Health Management Area (“HMA”). This designation charges the BLM with the maintenance of wild horse and burro herds in the HMA. These herds exceeded the Appropriate Management Levels (“AML”) for wild horses by 300% and for burros by 240%. The BLM released an Environmental Assessment based upon comments from 250 sources and its own predictions. The BLM concluded that, if left unchecked, the wild horse population would seriously impact ecological areas and cultural sites within the HMA. In July 2010, the BLM released a Finding of No Significant Impact (“FONSI”) regarding its gather plan but did not prepare an environmental impact statement (“”EIS”) with the FONSI. In August and September of 2010, wild horses and burros were gathered, sorted by sex, and examined. The animals were then released with a 60:40 stud to mare ratio and the mares were injected with an immunocontraceptive, while lame animals were euthanized and the excess animals were sold, adopted or sent to long term facilities. Before the gather, In Defense of Animals filed suit against the Department of the Interior and the BLM alleging the proposal violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (“”Act”) and that the failure to release an EIS was arbitrary and capricious. The district court denied the motion. On appeal, the panel held that the BLM had not violated the Act because it had acted within its authority to maintain the HMA. The panel also held that the BLM’s decision not to release an EIS was not arbitrary and capricious because the BLM provided a convincing and thorough FONSI.

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