By MARTIN GRIFFITH Associated Press
Posted: 07/15/2011 04:52:41 PM PDT
Updated: 07/15/2011 06:50:01 PM PDT
RENO, Nev.—A federal judge Friday refused to grant an emergency injunction to halt a government roundup of about 1,700 wild horses from the range in Nevada.
U.S. District Judge Howard McKibben's ruling paves the way for the federal Bureau of Land Management to begin removing the mustangs Saturday from public lands in the sprawling Triple B Complex near the Utah line.
The judge disagreed with the Colorado-based horse advocacy group Cloud Foundation, which contends the roundup would violate the 1971 Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act because the BLM failed to prove the herds there are overpopulated and causing ecological harm to public rangeland.
The herds have grown by nearly 1,600 horses since the last roundup in the complex in July 2006, McKibben said, and the range and herd itself will suffer if the population continues to grow at a 20 to 25 percent annual rate without BLM intervention.
"Plaintiffs have failed to show that a gather of this magnitude is not warranted in order to protect the rangeland habitat and maintain a thriving, natural ecological balance," the judge wrote. "The historical evidence before this court strongly supports the conclusion that the gather will benefit the horses rather than harm them, as fewer horses competing for limited resources will mean a healthier herd."
McKibben noted the high-desert complex has scarce water sources and the BLM has hauled several truckloads of water to it since June for the mustangs.