American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign v. Jewell

847 F.3d 1174 (2016)

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American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign v. Jewell

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
847 F.3d 1174 (2016)

Facts

An area of land in southwestern Wyoming was known as the “Checkerboard” because prior federal policies (e.g., land grants to railroads) had resulted in alternating sections of private and public lands. Federal law precluded landowners from erecting fences around their lands in the Checkerboard, because doing so would prevent any access to the adjacent public lands. A private landowner in the Checkerboard requested that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) round up and remove wild horses located not only on his private lands, but on neighboring public lands, pursuant to § 4 of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 (WFRHBA). The BLM agreed to do so, even though removing wild horses from public lands normally required the agency to make specific factual findings under § 3 of the WFRHBA. The BLM claimed that applying the requirements contained in § 3 of the WFRHBA was unworkable given the checkerboarded nature of land ownership in this area, because by the time officials arrived at the location, the wild horses were likely to have moved onto different public or private lands. The BLM claimed that Congress did not contemplate this unique factual situation and that wild horses should be removed from public lands without making the findings in § 3, so long as the purpose of the removal was to ensure that those horses would not trespass on private lands. Wild-horse-advocacy organizations and photographers (plaintiffs) sued Sally Jewell, the secretary of the Department of the Interior, and Neil Kornze, the acting director of the BLM (defendants) to challenge the BLM’s decision.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Briscoe, J.)

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