Hello and Happy New Year to everyone!
We wanted to update you on some of the things we are currently working on as we continue to advocate for the wild horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
As we have mentioned before, we have hired a law firm to represent us. They have done a thorough job of investigating our concerns and have validated them. They are a well-known law firm in the wild horse world. Their office is filled with lawyers with YEARS of experience dealing with the Department of the Interior (DOI) for issues with both the BLM and NPS.
The first step they advised us to take was to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) the park for certain records to help us navigate the next steps in our advocacy efforts.
When a FOIA request is made, the government agency has 20 days to respond. Not surprisingly, 20 days have come and gone, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park has not responded to our request. This is why we have lawyers! Here is part of their follow-up letter written on our behalf:
“Following the submission of our FOIA request on November 30, 2021, the request was assigned tracking number “DOI-NPS-2022-000890.” To date, no records have been disclosed in response to our request. According to the FOIA online portal, our request remains under evaluation by DOI and no estimated date of completion has been assigned.
As you are likely aware, “FOIA contemplates that upon receiving requests for records, within 20 days, agencies will make determinations about whether to comply with the requests, and shall immediately notify the requesting party of the agency’s determination and its reasons.”
Contreras & Metelska, P.A. v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, No. 20-cv-1261, 2020 WL 6867411 at *6 (D. Minn. Nov. 23, 2020); see also 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(6).1 As of this writing, DOI’s 20-day timeframe for responding has lapsed without a determination having been made. Accordingly, we are hereby requesting a date certain by which DOI will provide disclosures in response to our client’s request.
Chasing Horses would prefer to avoid time-consuming and expensive litigation over DOI’s delay in disclosing records. However, the information sought by Chasing Horses concerning the National Park Service’s management of wild horses is extremely important to our client, as well as to the public more generally. Should DOI fail to timely disclose the requested records, Chasing Horses will have no choice but to evaluate all its options, including litigation, for pursuing the information that FOIA requires the agency to disclose.
We appreciate your immediate attention to this matter and look forward to your timely response. Should you have any questions regarding this remand, please do not hesitate to contact me via phone or email.”
To be clear – roundups are inevitable this year. We understand that the park does need to cull the herd. We DO NOT agree that TRNP park management’s target of 35-60 horses will leave a viable herd in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We are asking that science and genetics be used vs capturing and auctioning off every horse they can, as they have for the past 7 years.
Of course, proper culling of this herd would be addressed in a Wild Horse Management Plan that has been promised more times than anyone can count over the last 70+ years – including the latest promise that has now come and gone for the fall of 2021.
We will keep you posted on our next steps. We do need your help! There are several ways that you can help listed on our website www.chwha.org.
Thank you for your support and we will keep you updated on our advocacy efforts.