Blake v. Babbitt, Civ. A. No. 93-0726 (RCL).

Citation837 F. Supp. 458
Decision Date18 November 1993
Docket NumberCiv. A. No. 93-0726 (RCL).
PartiesMichael BLAKE, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Bruce BABBITT, Secretary of the Interior, et al., Defendants.
CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)

Richard H. Chused, Washington, DC, Gary L. Francione, Newark, NJ, for plaintiffs.

Teri T. Thomsen, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Washington, DC, for defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

LAMBERTH, District Judge.

This matter comes before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment. The court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact, and that defendants are entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law, dismissing this case.

At issue is the validity of a regulation of the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") of the United States Department of Interior, 43 C.F.R. § 4770.3(c), that allows a delegated field officer ("authorized officer") of BLM to make and place in full force and effect a decision to remove wild horses or burros pursuant to the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act ("Wild Horse Act", or "the Act"), 16 U.S.C. § 1331, et seq.

The Wild Horse Act was enacted in 1971, and it "extended federal protection to wild horses and empowered BLM to manage horses roaming public ranges as a part of the Agency's management of the public lands." American Horse Protection Association v. Watt, 694 F.2d 1310, 1311 (D.C.Cir.1982).

Because overpopulation of wild horses and burros resulted from passage of the 1971 Act, Congress in 1978 amended the Act through the Public Rangelands Improvement Act of 1978. These amendments seemed to strike a new balance between "protecting wild horses and competing interests in the resources of the public range." American Horse Protection Association v. Watt, 694 F.2d at 1316. The amendments made clear the importance of management of the public range for multiple uses, rather than emphasizing wild horse needs. Id. The legislative history makes clear that one of Congress' goals was to "deal with range deterioration in areas where excess numbers of wild-free roaming horses and burros exist." H.R.Rep. No. 1122, 95th Cong., 2nd Sess. 9 (1978). The House Report indicated that the Wild Horse Act had been so successful that the numbers of wild horses and burros "now exceed the carrying capacity of the range. Excess numbers of horses and burros pose a threat to wildlife, livestock, the improvement of range conditions, and ultimately their own survival." Id., at 21.

The Wild Horse Act was specifically amended, then, to require "immediate" removal of excess horses. 16 U.S.C. § 1333(b)(2). When a determination is made that there is an over-population of wild horses, action is required based on the knowledge currently available, even if it is not complete. American Horse Protection Association v. Watt, 694 F.2d at 1317-19. Adjustments can be made later, but the endangered and rapidly deteriorating range cannot wait. Id.

Another part of the legislative history of the 1978 Amendments clearly sets forth Congress' goal:

"The goal of wild horses and burro management, as with all range management programs, should be to maintain a thriving ecological balance between wild horse and burro populations, wildlife, livestock, and vegetation, and to protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation of wild horses and burros."

H.R.Rep. No. 1737, 95th Cong., 2nd Sess., 15 (1978), U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1978, 4069, 4131.

By 1991, it became clear to BLM that it was having difficulty complying with the Congressional mandate to take "immediate" action when there were determined to be excess wild horses and burros. Because any person adversely affected had a right to appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals ("IBLA"), and because Interior Department regulations generally did not allow the decision to take full force and effect until IBLA's ruling, many removal decisions were delayed up to two years. Even when the Interior procedures were followed to allow decisions to be placed in full force and effect pending a final decision by IBLA, there was always a delay of months.

After publishing a proposed rule for notice and comment in 1991 (56 Fed.Reg. 30372), the final rule at issue here was adopted on June 5, 1992, published in the Federal Register on July 6, 1992, and became effective August 5, 1992. 57 Fed.Reg. 29651. The Wild Horse Act specifically authorizes the Secretary to adopt such regulations "as he deems necessary" to carry out the Act. 16 U.S.C. § 1336.

The regulation at issue, 43 C.F.R. § 4770.3(c), provides that:

"The authorized officer may place in full force and effect decisions to remove wild horses and burros from public or private lands if removal is required by applicable law or to preserve or maintain a thriving ecological balance and multiple use relationship. Full force and effect decisions shall take effect on the date specified, regardless of an appeal. Appeals and petitions for stay of decisions shall be filed with the Interior Board of Land Appeals as specified in this part."

The revised regulation therefore allows an "authorized officer" to place in full force and effect a decision to remove wild horses and burros, while still allowing persons adversely affected to appeal. The change is that the adversely affected person now must obtain a stay, either from IBLA or from a U.S. District Court, to stop the decision from being implemented while an appeal is pending. Prior to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
10 cases
  • Horses v. Salazar
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • October 21, 2010
    ...struck “a new balance between ‘protecting wild horses and competing interests in the resources of the public range.’ ” Blake v. Babbitt, 837 F.Supp. 458, 459 (D.D.C.1993). Under the amended statute, the BLM must keep a current inventory of horses on public lands to determine where overpopul......
  • W. Rangeland Conservation Ass'n v. Zinke
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. United States District Court of Utah
    • July 11, 2017
    ...range[ ] and [to] protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation." 16 U.S.C. § 1333(b)(2) ; Blake v. Babbitt , 837 F.Supp. 458, 459 (D.D.C. 1993) (citing Am. Horse Prot. Ass'n , 694 F.2d at 1317–19 ) (explaining that Section Three requires action, even when that act......
  • In Def. Animals v. U.S. Dep't of the Interior, 2:10–cv–01852–MCE–DAD.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • November 15, 2012
    ...Horse Prot. Ass'n v. Watt, 694 F.2d 1310, 1316 (D.C.Cir.1982) (quoting H.R. Rep No. 95–1122, at 23 (1978j)); see also Blake v. Babbitt, 837 F.Supp. 458, 459 (D.D.C.1993) (“[e]xcess numbers of horses and burros pose a threat to wildlife, livestock, the improvement of range conditions, and ul......
  • Campaign v. Bernhardt
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • February 13, 2020
    ...when necessary, must act immediately, even if more relevant information could become available at a later date. See Blake v. Babbitt , 837 F. Supp. 458, 459 (D.D.C. 1993) ("When a determination is made that there is an over-population of wild horses, action is required based on the knowledg......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Vol. 35 No. 4, September 2005
    • September 22, 2005
    ...Prot., Inc., 134 I.B.L.A. 24, 35 (1995), 1995 IBLA LEXIS 94. (47) 43 C.F.R. [section] 4770.3(c) (2004). See generally Blake v. Babbitt, 837 F. Supp. 458 (D.D.C. 1993) (discussing how, before enactment of new regulations, there was an automatic stay of removal decisions unless BLM succeeded ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT