Fund for Animals v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, No. 01-CV-1903 (RJL).

CourtUnited States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
Writing for the CourtLeon
Citation357 F.Supp.2d 225
PartiesFUND FOR ANIMALS, et al. Plaintiffs, v. U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, et al. Defendants.
Docket NumberNo. 01-CV-1903 (RJL).
Decision Date07 September 2004
357 F.Supp.2d 225
FUND FOR ANIMALS, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
U.S. BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, et al. Defendants.
No. 01-CV-1903 (RJL).
United States District Court, District of Columbia.
September 7, 2004.

Page 226

Howard Mesnikoff Crystal, Meyer & Glitzenstein, Washington, DC, for Plaintiffs.

Ann D. Navaro, Kristen L. Gustafson, United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources, Paul A. Mussenden, U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Washington, DC, for Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

LEON, District Judge.


The plaintiffs in this case include two nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting animals in captivity and in the wild, including wild horses, and four individuals with interest in wild horses. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 3, 7, 12-15. They brought this lawsuit against the Department of the Interior ("DOI"), the Secretary of the Interior (the "Secretary"), the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM"), and the Director of BLM, to challenge the BLM's preparation and implementation of a "Restoration Strategy" regarding wild horses and burros ("wild horses") on public lands. Currently before the Court are plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, or in the Alternative to Dismiss. Upon consideration of the parties' motions, oral argument made by counsel, and the remaining record before the Court, the Court GRANTS the government's Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and hereby dismisses this case with prejudice.

BACKGROUND

In 1971, Congress enacted the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act ("WHBA"), 16 U.S.C. § 1331, et seq., to protect wild horses and burros in the Western United States. Am. Compl. ¶ 28. The WHBA requires that the Secretary maintain an inventory of the wild horse population for the purpose of, inter alia, determining "whether and where an overpopulation exists and whether action should be taken to remove excess animals." 16 U.S.C. § 1333(b)(1). The methods of removal contemplated by the WHBA include natural controls on population levels (e.g., adoption and sterilization) in addition to destruction. Id. When the Secretary determines that the herds have become overpopulated,1 she is authorized under the WHBA to remove enough of the horses so as to "restore a thriving neutral ecological balance to the range, and protect the range from the deterioration associated with overpopulation." 16 U.S.C. § 1333(b)(2); Am. Compl. ¶ 37.

The BLM, through its field offices in ten states, has responsibility for managing the wild horse and burro herds in their historical ranges, called Herd Management Areas ("HMA"). Am. Compl. ¶ 38; Def. Mot. for Summ. J. or Dismissal at 1. For some of the HMAs, BLM has identified the number of wild horses that can be sustained in a particular herd area. This figure is referred to as an Appropriate Management Level ("AML"). Am. Compl. ¶ 38. BLM determined that, by the Spring of 2000, 159 of the 192 HMAs were above their AMLs, and that as a result, the wild horses were damaging the rangelands

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and posing a threat to watershed health. Am. Compl. ¶ 43. In response, BLM developed a strategy to manage the wild horse and burro herds entitled "Restoration of Threatened Watersheds, Living Legends in Balance with the Land: A Strategy to Achieve Healthy Rangelands and Viable Herds" (the "Restoration Strategy" or the "Strategy"). Am. Compl. ¶ 44. The Restoration Strategy included a four-year gather and removal schedule designed to remove 12,000 wild horses in the first year across all of the HMAs, an increase from the prior year's removal. Am. Compl. ¶ 46. The Strategy also called for increased numbers of adoptions and the creation of more facilities for holding the wild horses being removed from the HMAs. Am. Compl. ¶ 47. In 2000, BLM received an initial appropriation from Congress to fund the Restoration Strategy. Am. Compl. ¶ 49.

The plaintiffs brought this suit to challenge several aspects of the Restoration Strategy. First, the plaintiffs argue that the actions taken by the government run afoul of the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 4321, et seq., because BLM failed to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement or an Environmental Assessment on the Restoration Strategy, or to otherwise analyze the environmental impacts of the Strategy as required by the statute.2 Am. Compl. ¶¶ 50, 90. In addition, the plaintiffs argue BLM also violated NEPA by failing to consider alternatives to the Restoration Strategy or to its methods of quantifying AML. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 51-52.

Second, the plaintiffs argue that the Restoration Strategy violates the WHBA because it calls for removing wild horses to below AML, which the plaintiffs allege is a violation of the WHBA. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 48, 92. Additionally, the plaintiffs allege that BLM is reducing herd sizes to the point that they will not remain viable. Am. Compl. ¶ 93. Because neither WHBA nor NEPA provides for a private right of action, the plaintiffs bring suit under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 706, alleging that the government's failure to comply with WHBA and NEPA was "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(a); Am. Compl. ¶¶ 89, 92.

Finally, the plaintiffs challenge the legality of six individual removals of wild horses that occurred in 2001 and one removal that was implemented in early 2002.3 Am. Compl. ¶¶ 54-76, 95-101; Def. Mot. for Summ. J. or Dismissal at 17. The relief sought by plaintiffs includes, inter alia, declarations that the defendants are violating WHBA, NEPA, and the APA and an injunction preventing the defendants from further implementing the Restoration Strategy. Am. Compl. Prayer for Relief ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiffs do not seek any specific relief with regard to the specific gather

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and removal actions identified in their complaint.

The defendants argue that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to review the Restoration Strategy under the APA because it is not a final agency action. Defendants further argue that this Court lacks jurisdiction to review the individual gather and removal decisions because they have already been completed and as a result are moot. For the following reasons, the Court agrees with the defendants that the claims...

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5 practice notes
  • Fund for Animals v. U.S. Bureau of Land Manag., No. 04-5359.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • August 18, 2006
    ...matter jurisdiction, finding that the strategy was not a reviewable "final agency action." Fund for Animals v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 229 (D.D.C.2004). As to the specific removal actions, the district court found that the Fund's challenges were moot. Id. at The Fund takes ......
  • Food & Water Watch & Friends of the Earth v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency & Bob Perciasepe, Civil Action No.: 12–1639(RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 13, 2013
    ...improperly substitute the court's discretion for that of the agency.” (emphasis added)); Fund for Animals v. U.S. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 229 (D.D.C.2004), aff'd on other grounds,460 F.3d 13 (D.C.Cir.2006) (“Because further decision[-]making on the part of the BLM's state o......
  • Fund for Animals v. Williams, Civil Action No. 03-0677 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 26, 2005
    ...v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 893, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990); see also Fund for Animals v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 229 (D.D.C.2004) (holding that, because implementation of challenged goals requires further agency decisionmaking, the announcement of th......
  • Karst Environmental Educ. and Prot. v. U.S. E.P.A., Civil Action No. 05-1190 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 15, 2005
    ...when the action complained of has been completed and no effective relief is available. Fund for Animals v. U.S. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 230 (D.D.C.2004) (holding that a NEPA claim is moot once the government completes the action complained of by the plaintiffs because "the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • Fund for Animals v. U.S. Bureau of Land Manag., No. 04-5359.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • August 18, 2006
    ...jurisdiction, finding that the strategy was not a reviewable "final agency action." Fund for Animals v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 229 (D.D.C.2004). As to the specific removal actions, the district court found that the Fund's challenges were moot. Id. at The Fund tak......
  • Food & Water Watch & Friends of the Earth v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency & Bob Perciasepe, Civil Action No.: 12–1639(RC)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 13, 2013
    ...improperly substitute the court's discretion for that of the agency.” (emphasis added)); Fund for Animals v. U.S. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 229 (D.D.C.2004), aff'd on other grounds,460 F.3d 13 (D.C.Cir.2006) (“Because further decision[-]making on the part of the BLM's state o......
  • Fund for Animals v. Williams, Civil Action No. 03-0677 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • September 26, 2005
    ...v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 893, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990); see also Fund for Animals v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 229 (D.D.C.2004) (holding that, because implementation of challenged goals requires further agency decisionmaking, the announcement of th......
  • Karst Environmental Educ. and Prot. v. U.S. E.P.A., Civil Action No. 05-1190 (RMU).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • December 15, 2005
    ...when the action complained of has been completed and no effective relief is available. Fund for Animals v. U.S. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 357 F.Supp.2d 225, 230 (D.D.C.2004) (holding that a NEPA claim is moot once the government completes the action complained of by the plaintiffs because "......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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