Hearing set for Owyhee Preliminary Injunction

We have had a VERY busy month that has included action in court cases, field work and legislative issues. WE want to take a moment to update you on the Owyhee court actions.

Our attorney had significant surgery. The hearing on the Owyhee Complex matter has been reset: ORDER granting [21] Motion to alter Preliminary Injunction hearing date. The hearing set for 4/18/2013 at 9:00 AM is reset to 5/31/2013 at 9:00 AM in Reno Courtroom 3 before Judge Miranda M. Du.

Video done during Owyhee. See BLM website for their explanation: http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/fo/wfo/blm_programs/wild_horses_and_burros/Owyhee_Complex_Wild_Horse_Gather_2012.html

Excerpt from article HERE that includes documents relevant to the Preliminary Injunction hearing.

Steaming branded horses in trap

Steaming branded horses in trap


Incredibly on January 3rd, 2013 BLM announced it was moving into the second phase of the ten-year plan without making any changes to the plan. That announcement began the clock ticking for Leigh and attorney Gordon Cowan to write the Complaint and Motions and to finalize all supporting documents and declarationsfor WHE’s filing in court against BLM’s actions.

(To see the personal side of this, all the above events were occuring simultaneously for Laura Leigh, WHE President and principle investigator, who was also working on a separate legal case against BLM, arguing Motions in yet another case, recovering from a severe case of hypothermia that happened during final days at Owyhee, and preparing for and starting the observation project for the Diamond Complex roundup).

On January 4th Federal Judge Miranda Du, in response to WHE’s filing,  granted an emergency TRO and halted phase two of the Owyhee Complex operations, pending hearing. What happens then behind the scenes is that during that time before the hearing,  BLM attorneys craft a “Reply” which WHE has to respond to by crafting an “Answer.” All of this takes incredible amount of time and effort.

On January 10th there was a hearing in federal court regarding the WHE’s Owyhee TRO motion. The night before, in a race against time, after the briefs on the TRO were filed, WHE finished the more extensive Owyhee Complex brief for Preliminary Injunction. At the hearing, BLM argued that temporarily holding the horses they had just captured in the field (remember they announced they were moving ahead late on January 3rd and started at sunrise on the 4th) was costing the taxpayers $20,000 a day! Holding less than 50 horses in pens on the range was costing $20,000 a day? So BLM said they needed the order lifted to transport those animals immediately to short-term holding. The BLM also claimed that Nevada State WH&B lead, Alan Shepard, was a “witness” that all conduct at Owyhee  was “humane.” The only slight problem with this is that Alan Shepard had not been to Owyhee nor had he reviewed any of the video tape. The BLM Incident Commander (IC) who is supposed to, according to BLM policy,  communicate all activities “up the chain,” was only seen to be present by WHE declarants (WHE witnesses at Owyhee ) on two days of the operation. The hearing lasted much longer than most hearings for TRO, and the Judge told those in court she would give her ruling shortly.

Foal falling after stumbling at ditch as other horses stampede through the jute, Owyhee Complex

Foal falling during roundup, Owyhee 2012

On the way out of the courtroom,  BLM Nevada’s WH&B lead Alan Shepard said, that BLM would continue to treat the horses as they always do. He made that statement before the Judge’s ruling.

Within a couple of short hours the Judge gave her ruling. She did allow BLM to continue the operation (remove the 50 horses and PZP treat and release about 150),  but she set the Court’s expectations of how the operation would continue. READ BOTTOM OF PAGE HERE>>>

(Please note BLM did not then ship the 50 horse out of the field until three ays after the TRO was lifted. Right, the same horses that were costing $20,000 a day to hold and were constituting a hardship if the Judge did not immediately lift the TRO and was the bulk of BLM argument to the TRO).


A hearing date has been set for the next motion to be heard. That date is currently set for April 18th in Nevada Federal Court. (To find out more details about the hearing, sign up for email notifications on our website, subscribe to our blog, or like us on Facebook for regular update posts).

The next motion is the one that involves a Preliminary Injunction. A Preliminary Injunction, if won, will hold off the operation until the underlying case can be heard. If the underlying case is heard,  the language of an Injunction  can become permanent (unless Appealed).

The Owyhee Complex is on a ten year plan and BLM did announce that they could be back as early as this summer, with the Snowstorm Roundup  (HMA in the Owyhee Complex) as the likely first target. Snowstorm HMA had been removed from the schedule this winter, suspended due to a lack of space for more horses in BLM holding pens and warehouses. The Snowstorm HMA had a target of 384 animals to be run into government pens and 256 to be removed. ALL HMAS in the Owyhee Complex are now subject to removal, whenever BLM decides to do so, without another Environmental Assessment (EA), public comment,  or any new data gathered over the NEXT TEN YEARS.


Owyhee 2012


Inserted below are screen grabs of  documents filed with the court. Please take the time to read through these documents to understand the case for humane treatment and that BLM is exceeding authority to remove horses that WHE is making. If WHE is successful in this case it will mean that there will be in place a Court-ordered humane treatment expectation at all roundups at the Owyhee Complex for the next ten years and that BLM will be prohibited from removing animals it can not identify as excess. This would still mean BLM will have to be observed by outside parties, like WHE, and called to task for violating the orders, but a permanent court injunction is the law….not just a BLM memo of good intent (as the Memorandum on expectations they are presenting to the public is a non-specific reiteration of current protocol, it is nothing new).


To read about Leigh’s experience almost three years ago in an article “Owyhee almost 200,000 miles ago,” go HERE.

Wild Horse Education (WHE) awaits a decision in the First Amendment (access) case heard in February and continues the Triple B/Jackson Mountain action after winning against BLM’s motion to dismiss Jackson.

We will update you on all of the litigation efforts as information becomes public and we are legally allowed to share.


We need your help to keep all of our actions alive. “We don’t just take pictures… we act.”

Help keep us in the field and the courtroom!

Help keep us in the field and the courtroom!


One thought on “Hearing set for Owyhee Preliminary Injunction

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