Lawsuit Challenges Plan to Remove Estray Horses at Fort Polk
This article is featured on the HORSE.
A group of equine advocates in Louisiana have filed a federal lawsuit to halt the Army’s plan to remove estray horses that roam property at Fort Polk, in Vernon Parish, Louisiana, and the Kisatchie National Forest, which spans seven central and northern Louisiana parishes.
Last year, the Army issued a public notice of intend to conduct an environmental assessment in advance of a proposed action to remove the so-called “trespass horses” at Fort Polk. In April the Army released the final assessment, which stated that, due to herd growth, the horses interfered with Army training operations at the base and in the national forest and presented a safety concern to nearby communities.
On Dec. 14, the Pegasus Equine Guardian Association (PEGA) filed a lawsuit asking the court to prevent the Army from removing the horses on grounds that the animals had roamed the base and national forest property since the 1600s, and that the removal plan threatens the horses’ long-term survival.
“The Army’s plan sets a dangerous precedent for future viability of these unique horses,” said Amy Hanchey, PEGA president. “The unique herds of truly wild horses are of value both environmentally and culturally, especially to the inhabitants of the area, but also to all Americans. They should be preserved and protected.”
Meanwhile, Lieutenant General (Ret.) Russel Honoré, a Louisiana native who served in the Army for more than 30 years, said the horses are part of the region’s ecosystem.
“They were here before we got here and we just have to figure out how we’re going to deal with that,” he said.
Kim Reischling, information strategies officer for the Fort Polk Public Affairs Office, said Fort Polk’s Commander was aware of the lawsuit, and that the right to file such litigation is a critical part of Americans’ freedom.
“Everyone is entitled to due process and we stand behind that right,” Reischling said. “We shall follow the letter of the law.”
The lawsuit remains pending.