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Archived: Access to Federal Land Legal Cases

Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been the Nation's leading legal center defending the rights of all Americans to make use of the one-third of the nation that is owned by the federal government. By law, much of the Nation's federal land is available for multiple uses, including recreation, as well as mining, oil and gas development, forestry, ranching, and other activities. MSLF seeks, by its legal efforts, to ensure the continuation of these activities on federal lands and has established a number of vitally important precedents by its litigation.

Wyoming v. U.S. Department of the Interior

Legal Question:

Whether the federal government may ignore its non-discretionary duties under the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, which failure to act harms the various resources and interests in the public lands and private property rights?

Petitioner

State of Wyoming

Respondents

United States Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Land Management, Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Interior; and Neil Kornze, Director of the BLM

Intervenors:

Respondent-Intervenors:  American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Kimerlee Curyl, Carol Walker

Respondent-Intervenors:  Friends of Animals, Protect Mustangs

Amicus Curiae:

Wyoming Stock Growers Association

Court:

U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming
Unknown.
In 1979, in one of its first lawsuits, MSLF, on behalf of the Rock Springs Grazing Association (RSGA), sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for its refusal to obey the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act by its refusal to remove wild horses from grazing lands used by RSGA members.

In March of 1981, the Wyoming federal district court entered an order requiring the BLM to remove excess wild horses to permit RSGA members to use their lands and engage in livestock grazing.  In March of 1982, the court issued another order setting new limits for wild horses and ordering that the BLM comply by September of 1984.  When the BLM failed to comply with the order, MSLF sought a show cause order; the BLM confessed error and then entered into a stipulation agreement:  it would remove excess wild horses.  Within a decade, however, the BLM was again out of compliance with federal law, the Wyoming district court’s orders, and the BLM’s stipulation agreement.  In 2003, the State of Wyoming sued.  The BLM confessed error and entered into a Consent Decree.  In time, the BLM’s compliance with the decree suffered from poor management and inaccurate methodologies.

In 2009 and 2010, the BLM removed no wild horses and refused to comply with the court’s orders; rather, the BLM demanded that livestock grazing end.  Then, on August 29, 2013, by its own terms, the 2003 Consent Decree with the State of Wyoming terminated. 

In August of 2014, Wyoming demanded that the federal government comply with the law and noticed its intent to sue within sixty days.  On December 8, 2014, Wyoming filed its lawsuit petitioning the federal district court to review the BLM’s final decision not to remove excess wild horses in accordance with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act.  Various wild horse advocacy groups moved to intervene, and were granted intervention.

On February 23, 2015, the BLM moved to dismiss Wyoming’s petition for failing to plead that the BLM failed to take a discrete agency action it was required to take, as well as improperly requesting broad programmatic relief.  On February 27, 2015, the wild horse advocacy groups also moved to dismiss the petition.  On March 27, 2015, Wyoming filed its brief in opposition.  On April 2, 2015, MSLF moved for leave to file an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association in support of Wyoming.  On April 3, 2015, the motion was granted, and on April 6, 2015, MSLF filed the amicus curiae brief. 

On April 21, 2015, the federal district court issued an order granting the motions to dismiss and entered final judgment in favor of the BLM.  On June 19, 2015, Wyoming filed a notice of appeal.  On December 7, 2015, Wyoming filed its opening brief.  On December 14, 2015, MSLF filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association in support of Wyoming urging reversal. On February 12, 2016, federal appellees and the wild horse advocacy groups filed their response briefs.  On February 29, 2016, Wyoming filed its reply brief.  On September 19, 2016, the Tenth Circuit heard oral argument.  On October 11, 2016, the three-judge panel of the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.


 

  • Wyoming Stockmen Urge Dismissal of Wild Horse Suit Be Reversed

    Dec 14, 2015
    A Wyoming nonprofit association that began in 1872 and represents 1,000 beef cattle producers today urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit to annul a Wyoming district court ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed by Wyoming demanding the Secretary of the Department of the Interior fulfill her legal duty to remove excess wild horses on public lands, including in one of the nation’s largest counties, in central Wyoming along the Colorado border.
  • Wyoming Stockmen Disappointed with Wild Horse Suit Dismissal

    Apr 21, 2015
    A Wyoming nonprofit association that began in 1872 and represents 1,000 beef cattle producers today expressed disappointed with the decision of a Wyoming federal district court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wyoming demanding that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior fulfill her duty to remove excess wild horses on public lands, including in one of the nation’s largest counties, in central Wyoming along the Colorado border.
  • Wyoming Stockmen Support Wyoming in Its Wild Horse Lawsuit

    Apr 6, 2015
    A Wyoming nonprofit association that began in 1872 and represents 1,000 beef cattle producers today urged a Wyoming federal district court to reject an attempt to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Wyoming demanding that the Secretary of the Department of the Interior fulfill her duty to remove excess wild horses on public lands, including in one of the nation’s largest counties, in central Wyoming along the Colorado border.


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