Wild horses that roamed the verdant, brush-covered hillocks of Modoc National Forest might soon be dragged away, according to a lawsuit filed today by the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and other animal rights groups.
In their complaint, the horse lovers argue that the U.S. Forest Service violated multiple federal laws by eliminating more than 25,000 acres of Modoc land -- including parts of an area called Devil's Garden which encompasses vast swaths of protected wild horse territory. Once the land is razed, horses in that area will be rounded up, air-lifted to corrals, separated from their families and possibly sold for slaughter in Mexico and Canada, the lawsuit warns.
The proposed equine purge is part of a new management plan that the Forest Service adopted in August, which asserts that the contested land was privately owned at the time Congress passed its Wild Horse Act -- designed to ensure the welfare of feral horses and burros -- in 1971. That should never have been incorporated into Devil's Garden, Forest Service officials insist.
That argument fails to account for "significant change in the environmental and legal status quo," horse plaintiffs say, noting that the Forest Service failed to provide an environmental impact statement, or formally amend its resource management plan.
We're waiting for comment from a Forest Service spokesman.
Interestingly, this legal battle somewhat resembles the plot of The Misfits, a 1961 cowboy drama in which Clark Gable plays a rancher who tries to sell wild mustangs through a horse trader at a local rodeo. Marilyn Monroe plays a heroine who fiercely protests the sale after learning the horses will be ground up for dog food.
Here's the complaint: