What a week this has been!

I am not sure what has been worse this week – Mother Nature’s seemingly never-ending winter wrath that has crippled the state of North Dakota or Theodore Roosevelt National Park issuing a press release letting us know about their intent to eliminate ALL of the wild horses from the park.  I guess in all honesty, there is hope that Mother Nature will eventually calm down.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park has been trying to get rid of the wild horses that were fenced into the park ever since they realized they were there.  Some things never change!

It has been a highly emotional week for sure.  It sickens my stomach to even think about there NOT being any wild horses within Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s boundaries. 

There is a process that has to be followed.  The park has announced analyses that they are considering.  To be clear, Chasing Horses Wild Horses Wild Horse Advocates does not support ANY of the proposed options that Theodore Roosevelt National Park management is considering. 

We ARE working with national wild horse organizations and ask that you be patient while we all work to get some solid information to you for your comments.

Once we all comment and let the park know WHAT analyses they need to consider, the park will begin their research.  The park has stated that they will be doing an Environmental Analysis.  For reasons we will cover in a blog post of its own, we believe they should be doing an Environmental Impact Statement. 

Either way, the rules of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) are at play.  THIS is why we insist on working with our legal team at Eubanks and Associates.  We hope this information helps calm your nerves a bit.   Nothing is ever guaranteed, but there are A LOT of legal grounds to fight Theodore Roosevelt National Park and their plans to annihilate the herd of wild horses that have called the park home since the park’s inception.    

“An agency’s duty to consider alternatives to the proposed action has been described as the “heart” of the NEPA process. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.14. Agencies are required to “study, develop, and describe appropriate alternatives to recommended courses of action in any proposal which involves unresolved conflicts concerning alternative uses of available resources.” 42 U.S.C. § 4332(E); see also 42 U.S.C. § 4332(C)(iii). An EIS must “‘provide full and fair discussion of significant environmental impacts and . . . inform decisionmakers and the public of the reasonable alternatives which would avoid or minimize adverse impacts or enhance the quality of the human environment.’” Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Ctr. v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., 387 F.3d 989, 993 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing 40 C.F.R. § 1502.1). It is essential that an EIS contain “detailed and careful” analysis of the relative merits and demerits of the proposed action and proposed alternatives, a requirement which courts have characterized as the “linchpin” of an EIS. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. Callaway, 524 F.2d 79, 92 (2d Cir. 1975) (quoting Monroe Cnty Conservation Soc’y, Inc. v. Volpe, 472 F.2d 693, 697–98 (2d Cir. 1972)).

“The purpose of NEPA’s alternatives requirement is to ensure agencies do not undertake projects “without intense consideration of other more ecologically sound courses of action, including shelving the entire project, or of accomplishing the same result by entirely different means.” Envtl. Defense Fund, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engrs., 492 F.2d 1123, 1135 (5th Cir. 1974). That analysis must identify multiple viable alternatives, so that an agency can make “a real, informed choice” from the spectrum of reasonable options. Friends of Yosemite Valley v. Kempthorne, 520 F.3d 1024, 1039 (9th Cir. 2008).

Federal courts have consistently held that an agency’s failure to consider a reasonable alternative is fatal to an agency’s NEPA analysis. See, e.g., Muckleshoot Indian Tribe v. U.S. Forest Serv., 177 F.3d 800, 814 (9th Cir. 1999) (“A ‘viable but unexamined alternative renders [the] environmental impact statement inadequate.’”) (quoting Citizens for a Better Henderson v. Hodel, 768 F.2d 1051, 1057 (9th Cir. 1985)); Idaho Conserv. League v. Mumma, 956 F.2d 1508, 1519-20 (9th Cir. 1992) (“The existence of a viable, but unexamined alternative renders an environmental impact statement inadequate.”). If the action agency rejects an alternative from consideration, it must explain why a particular option is not feasible and was therefore eliminated from further consideration. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.14(a). The courts will scrutinize this explanation to ensure that the reasons given are adequately supported by the record. See Muckleshoot Indian Tribe, 177 F.3d at 813–15; Idaho Conserv. League v. Mumma, 956 F.2d 1508, 1522 (9th Cir. 1992) (while agencies can use criteria to determine which options to fully evaluate, those criteria are subject to judicial review), Citizens for a Better Henderson, 768 F.2d at 1057.”

Simply put – at this time, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is NOT considering reasonable alternatives for the management of the wild horses that call its park home.  They have clearly stated that at this time, the options they will consider are either total elimination of the herd (which is Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s preference) or reducing the herd to an unviable number of 35-60. 

As it is stated above: “Federal courts have consistently held that an agency’s failure to consider a reasonable alternative is fatal to an agency’s NEPA analysis.”

THIS is why Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates is begging for you to help support our legal fight for these horses!  They have ALWAYS been a part of the landscape of Theodore Roosevelt National Park and they deserve to remain there for future generations to enjoy like we all have!

Please see the Support CHWHA page (https://chwha.org/support-chwha/) on our website for ways you can help.

Also know that sharing our posts helps too! 

Thank you for your support and please continue to message or email (info@chwha.org) us with your questions or concerns. 

Chasing Horses Wild Horse Advocates is committed to advocating for a wild horse management plan and protection for these unique wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home!  We are fighting for a management plan that is guided by science especially when it comes to decisions regarding the removal of horses and the administration of birth control.  Many other wild horse management plans have proven to be successful with their science-based plans.  We are asking for the same for this amazing group of wild horses that call Theodore Roosevelt National Park home.

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