Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Utah


"A federal judge authorized the release of 80 captive wild horses to the Book Cliffs range in eastern Utah over objections of Uintah County and the tribe, denying a request for a temporary restraining order against the Bureau of Land Management. Ranchers, the county and tribe sued BLM over its decision to release the corralled mustangs near Bonanza, 27 miles southeast of Vernal. The agency waffled over the fate of 210 horses held in temporary corrals and tested for incurable equine disease after a massive 1998 outbreak resulted in the destruction of 54 horses. The virus is transmitted by biting insects and afflicts only horses. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, seeking to intervene in the lawsuit, sought release of all 210 horses, although it supports the decision to cut loose 80. A county attorney, Thomas Bachtell, collected sworn affidavits from residents claiming to have seen as many as 45 mustangs roaming the Bonanza herd area - even though BLM says it gathered the entire herd. "Think of the economic effect on the county's rodeo grounds to have this stigma, to have your favorite prize horse at a show in Vernal get EIA because it got bit by a horse fly that had also bitten a Bonanza horse."