Last week, the Wild Horse Observers Association (WHOA) lost its bid to have the US Supreme Court hear its case against the Secretary of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) regarding the Placitas free-roaming horses. WHOA had previously lost the case in US District Court and lost its subsequent appeal in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. WHOA then filed a Petition for Writ of Certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court (No. 13-1385 v. Wild Horse Observers Association, et al., Petitioners). On October 6, 2014, the petition was denied, which simply means the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, not finding it compelling. WHOA has now exhausted its remedies and the case is effectively over.
WHOA’s initial 2011 lawsuit filed in US District Court claimed the Secretary of the Interior and the BLM had violated a federal law protecting wild horses because the agencies hadn’t recognized the free-roaming horses of Placitas as wild.* WHOA also sought an injunction against an Algodones resident to prevent him from working with the BLM to gather free-roaming horses on his land.
Wait, there’s more
WHOA filed a separate lawsuit against the New Mexico Livestock Board (NMLB), WHOA v. NMLB, in February 2014. In that suit, WHOA argues the Placitas horses are not livestock and shouldn’t be treated as livestock by NMLB. In July, New Mexico’s Second District Court decided the case against WHOA, ruling the horse are estrays and can be impounded under state livestock laws. In August, WHOA filed an appeal with the NM Court of Appeals. It will be some time before the outcome of that appeal is known.
*Only horse herds identified, inventoried and designated as wild following enactment of the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 are considered “wild” under federal law and subject to the law’s protections. No free-roaming/wild horse herd was identified in the Placitas area at that time. New Mexico does have two wild horse herds: one herd of 56 roams the BLM’s Bordo Atravesado Herd Management Area east of Socorro. A second herd of 90 roams the Jicarilla Wild Horse Territory in the Carson National Forest.