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Judge Dismisses Wild Horses Suit

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A federal judge has dismissed a case filed by a group of Placitas wild horse enthusiasts against Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the Bureau of Land Management and an Algodones man the suit claimed was working with the BLM to round up the horses.

Members of the Wild Horse Observers Association filed the lawsuit last year, claiming Salazar and the BLM violated a 1971 federal law designed to protect wild horses because they have never recognized horses that roam around Placitas as wild.

The group later amended the lawsuit to seek an injunction preventing the BLM and Al Baca from capturing, transporting or allowing the sale of the horses except as permitted by the Wild Horse and Burro Act. It claimed Baca was working with the BLM and planning to capture and sell the roaming Placitas horses.

Late last month, U.S. District Court Judge Christina Armijo denied the association’s request to further amend its case and granted Baca’s request to dismiss the lawsuit with prejudice, meaning that it cannot be refiled.

In her order, Armijo granted Baca’s request because the Wild Horse Act does not provide for an action filed by a private group or individual. It also said the law the association sought relief under did not apply to a “non-governmental defendant.”

Wild Horse Observers Association is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to protect and preserve horses that roam freely in Placitas and their habitat.

The lawsuit claimed removal of the horses would harm association members who enjoy observing, photographing and writing about the horses.

BLM representatives have said the horses don’t fall under the protections of the Wild Horse and Burro Act because they belong to San Felipe Pueblo and were not therefore classified as wild.

The lawsuit disputed that position, saying the pueblo has never made efforts to claim the horses and the BLM is breaking the law by not recognizing them as wild and protecting them.

San Felipe Gov. Anthony Ortiz recently disagreed with the BLM position in a letter to Association members and its President Patience O’Dowd.

“Contrary to statements made by others, neither San Felipe nor any of its members claims the wild horses as private property or views them as livestock,” the Sept. 5 letter stated.

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