United States of America
Injunctive Relief, Prevention, Wildlife, Jurisdiction, Remedies, Damages, Evidence
Prior to October 2010, the North Piceance Herd Area, a 79,500-acre land expanse located in northwestern Colorado, served as a home to approximately 60 wild horses. The horses, however, were removed by the Bureau of Land Management ("the BLM") throughout the course of the month, giving rise to this litigation. Plaintiffs—Habitat for Horses, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, The Cloud Foundation, Toni Moore, and Dr. Don Moore—commenced this action, asserting that the BLM’s decision to remove the wild horses violates the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 ("Wild Horses Act"), the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), the Information Quality Act ("IQA"), and the Federal Land Policy Management Act ("FLPMA"). Specifically, the BLM endorsed a resource area management plan in mid-2010 which allowed the BLM to reduce the wild horse population in Piceance East from 265 to 135 and to remove all horses in the Piceance North area. Removed horses would thereafter be available for adoption or sale. Plaintiffs subsequently sought preliminary injunctive relief as to the Piceance North plan for removal. The court began by noting that a plaintiff seeking preliminary injunctive relief must show both "irreparable harm" and "likelihood of success on the merits." Ultimately, the District Court for the Southern District of New York concluded that, while Plaintiffs did establish irreparable harm, they were not likely to succeed on the merits. Particularly, Plaintiffs’ contention of irreparable harm based on "impending aesthetic injury"—that Plaintiffs will no longer be able to experience the wild horses at Piceance North—was sufficient. Plaintiffs, however, could not prove "likelihood of success on the merits," under any of the applicable Acts. In particular, Plaintiffs failed under: (1) the Wild Horses Act (since the BLM properly conducted a "multiple use analysis" and Environmental Assessment prior to gather); (2) the NEPA (since Plaintiffs failed to carry their burden in proving that the BLM’s categorical exclusion was arbitrary, capricious, in excess of authority, or not in accord with the law); (4) the IQA (because Plaintiffs offered only conclusory allegations as to the claim); and (5) the FLPMA (since the BLM properly devoted significant analysis in considering wild horses as one of multiple uses). Finally, the court concluded by asserting that neither a balance of hardships analysis, nor public interest favor granting Plaintiffs’ request for preliminary injunction. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ application for preliminary injunctive relief was denied.