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American Wild Horse Campaign v. Bernhardt

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20039
Nos. 18-1529 (BAH), (D.D.C., 02/13/2020) (Howell, J.)

A district court denied horse advocacy and environmental groups' motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit concerning BLM's proposal to remove wild horses from public lands in southeastern Nevada. The groups challenged BLM's 2008 land use plan that determined the area would not be managed for wild horses and its subsequent 2018 "gather decision" to remove any remaining horses there. With respect to the 2008 plan, the court found the agency's decision constituted final agency action and thus that the statute of limitations on review expired three years before the groups filed suit. The groups argued the plan could be challenged as part of its claim against the 2018 gather decision because the latter was not merely an implementation of the former. But the court found that the groups adopted the very framing they contested by repeatedly describing the gather decision as implementing the land use plan, thus undermining their assertion that the gather decision reopened the agency's determination in the plan. The groups separately argued that the 2018 decision violated the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act (WHBA) and NEPA, and sought to have the decision vacated. But the court found that BLM complied with the WHBA by appropriately determining action was necessary to remove excess wild horses in the area, and that the agency took a sufficiently hard look at the environmental impacts, considered all reasonable alternatives, and adequately disclosed relevant information before pursuing its decision, as required by NEPA. It therefore denied the groups' motion for summary judgment and granted BLM's cross-motion for summary judgment.