SAN FRANCISCO (CB SF) -- A famous herd of Mustangs named for the Marilyn Monroe classic, "The Misfits" will remain free to roam the Nevada range, now that a judge has granted a temporary injunction to stop the Bureau of Land Management's proposed roundup and thinning of the herd.
The roundup was scheduled to begin February 20.
The suit was brought by San Francisco-based Protect Mustangs and Friends of Animals.
The injunction also stops the BLM from administering PZP to dozens of mares, a form of mass birth control.
Protect Mustang executive director, Anne Novak, praised the injunction, and called PZP "an EPA-approved pesticide."
"Today is a milestone for America's wild horses who have been scapegoated for range damage and forcibly drugged with PZP in experiments for decades," she said. "They should never live in zoo-like settings on public land. That's not freedom. Wild horses are a native species who contribute to the ecosystem. They belong here."
PZP would keep the mares from reproducing for 2 years.
Nevada is home to some 25,000 wild horses and burros. The BLM has argued they degrade the land through overgrazing, and the state can only sustain a fraction of that number due to drought. Mustang advocates blame livestock for the overgrazing.
During the hearing, Rachel Roberts a lawyer for the Justice Department's Natural Resources Section defended the roundups.
"If BLM is not allowed to gather the horses, their population will be reduced by starvation," Roberts said. "I don't think anyone wants that."
The government cited a 2010 environmental assessment to justify the roundups. Horse advocates maintain that research is outdated.
In his ruling Judge Hicks agreed.
"Initially, it was never the expressed intention of BLM to rely upon the 2010 EA to support further roundups likely to occur four and five years later," wrote Hicks. "This proposed roundup far exceeds the intensity and scope of what was proposed under the 2010 EA."
The judge said the preliminary injunction will last until the court can rule on the matter or the BLM prepares an "appropriate environmental assessment analyzing the proposed gather."
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