In December of 2016 Pegasus Equine Guardian Association, represented by Tulane Environmental Law Clinic, filed a complaint in the Louisiana District Court against the US Army at Fort Polk Louisiana, charging that the Army’s plan to eliminate herds of horses violates the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).
Because the army has failed both plan and execute a sustainable solution for these unique wild horses, (very few like them remain in the wild), Pegasus Equine Guardian Association (PEGA) formed to unify efforts to preserve and protect these free roaming herds. PEGA asserts that the free roaming herds of Kisatchie have been a part of Louisiana’s local culture since its early beginnings and prior, and therefore should have Heritage standing. In addition to the undeniably unique historical and cultural significance Pegasus Equine Guardian has worked to establish a scientific bases in an effort to educate the public about the truly significant genetic and biological treasure that exist in Louisiana’s Wild horses, which has been largely unknown until recently (2018).
Preserved in the remote Kisatchie Region for centuries, the Fort Polk and Peason Ridge wild horses are Spanish type remnants of our country’s pre-colonial history dating back to at least the 16th Century. They have lived and bred in the wild, without dependency of man and largely remained undiluted from lines that contributed to other modern horse breeds.
While Colonial Spanish type horses are not to be confused with the general term “Mustang“, (meaning a horse of unknown origin or owner-less beast), the mustang then spread across North America, before larger infusions of English bred horses that were not of Spanish origin, arrived on the east coast.
“Colonial Spanish Horses are rarely referred to by this name. The usual term that is used in North America is Spanish Mustang. The term “mustang” carries with it the unfortunate connotation of any feral horse of any genetic background, so that this term serves poorly in several regards….only a very small minority of feral horses (mustangs) in North America qualifies as being Spanish in type and breeding.”
Only about 3 to 5 percent of mustangs in the wild have those unique genetics, associated with Colonial Spanish lines.
Over the last 3-4 years witnessed inhumane acts such as the murder of the Peason 5, as well as horses being illegally tranquilized and winched into trailers, inadequate capture and holding practices, free for all round ups that resulted in harm to the horses, roping of foals, foals being captured without their mothers, and a long list of alleged under-the -table dealings at the detriment of the horses.
“In order to place a group of horses within a context of breeds and origins, we usually rely on three aspects. One is the physical type, a second is the history, and a third is DNA analysis.In the case of the Fort Polk horses, the physical type strongly suggests an Iberian origin. In this geographic location this specific physical type is consistent with an origin in older original horses in the area. This area was heavily influenced by Iberian horses in colonial times. The history of isolation fits with this interpretation, especially because this Iberian physical type is relatively easily disrupted by crossbreeding, so that crossbred or mixed horses rarely have this distinctive physical type. The conclusions of the third portion, DNA analysis, are not yet final, but early results put them in a group with other Iberian-based breeds from the Americas. The overall result is that these horses are remnants of some of the early Iberian horses in this area. This type of horse is now quite rare, and has both historic and biologic importance.” – D. Phillip Sponenberg, DVM, PhD, ACT (Honorary) | Professor, Pathology and Genetics |Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Read More Here
“The Kisatchie Horses are herds of undomesticated horses that have lived in the region for generations, and they are a critical component of the cultural history in Western Louisiana. The Army seeks to completely remove the horses from the land under its authority at the Fort Polk Military Installation and Kisatchie National Forest. However, the manner of removal will likely result in the slaughter of many Kisatchie Horses. The Army has not completed the requisite analysis of the impacts of its proposed actions on the horses as a part of the environment or as a historical and culture resource, and has not proposed a range of alternatives that provide significant choices for properly managing the horses. Before it commits to a course of action with irreversible harm, it must complete an Environmental Impact Statement.
The Army has committed to its course of action without assessing the harm to the horses themselves, without considering a proper range of alternatives to its course of action, without including the most basic baseline data in the analysis, and without completing an analysis of the adverse effects on historical and cultural resources
Before the Army commits an irreversible and significant change to the landscape of west-central Louisiana, it must complete further analysis on the impacts of the removal, the alternatives available, and actions the Army can take to mitigate harm. Thus, Pegasus asks this court to declare the Army’s action illegal and enjoin it from authorizing the removal of any horses until it publishes an environmental impact statement and completes a historical and cultural resources analysis.”
1. Violated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in preparing their Environmental Assessment:
➽by failing to assess the impact on the horses;
➽ by failing to provide critical data in the Environmental Assessment regarding horse populations and roaming patterns necessary to develop a range of alternatives;
➽ by failing to adequately analyze the impacts of this project on horses scheduled to be adopted, sold at auction, or euthanized;
➽ by failing to explore and objectively evaluate a reasonable range of alternatives including, for example, an alternative that would physically protect areas used for training grounds without totally eliminating the horses from Fort Polk and Kisatchie in entirety; and
➽ by failing to assess mitigation measures
2. Violated NEPA by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
3. Violated National Historical Preservation Act (NHPA) by failing to follow the study, analysis, publication and consultation requirements regarding its horse-removal project’s effects on historic properties.”
In the Army’s Environmental Assessment (EA), the Army failed to consider:
1. the impact horse removal would have on the genetic diversity of the Choctaw Horse population at Fort Polk
2. the impact on genetic diversity among the remaining Spanish Colonial Horse type worldwide and
3. proper management to assure conservation of the type and strain. The Plaintiff has already briefed the Army’s failure to gather general baseline data on the horse population at Fort Polk for their EA.
The currently round up/removal plan should not continue in this manner. The Army should first fully and ethically consider the potential effects on the welfare of the horses, as well as the potential effects on the cultural landscape per section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and a complete Environmental Impact Statement per National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The current plan called “ COA7 “ sets a dangerous precedent for future viability of these unique herds, given the current saturation of Domestic Horse population. One can assert that the minute a wild unhandled horse is removed from its natural habitat the risk for ending up in auction and subsequently slaughter.
The current frequency and quantity imposed by the Army is unsustainable, and is currently decimating these unique herds.
The unique herds of truly wild horses in Fort Polk, LA / Kisatchie National Forest are of value both environmentally, genetically, and culturally especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also worldwide.
In truth the both federal and local agencies should be working collaboratively with equine welfare and preservation organizations to establish an prudent and conservative humane herd management program that considers the long term welfare and viability of Louisiana’s truly unique Wild Horse herds that are a Louisiana Treasure.
Amy Hanchey, President
Pegasus Equine Guardian Association