The suit seeks to bring short and long term relief to the horses – and to the island’s natural and wilderness resources – by humanely transitioning the horses from the island.
The defendants are listed as follows: Interior Secretary Deb Haaland; Director of the NPS South Atlantic and Gulf Region Mark Foust; Cumberland Island National Seashore Superintendent Gary Ingram; Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams; and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper.
Federal officials have 60 days to respond, while state officials have 21 days.
Wild Cumberland believes that good stewardship requires us to show compassion to these animals.
Good stewardship also requires us to demonstrate respect for our ecosystems, particularly as we face unprecedented anthropogenic changes.
Wild Cumberland believes it should NOT take a lawsuit for the NPS to do the right thing. The agency has all the data it needs to create a path forward. Management should (and could) have already fulfilled its responsibility to the Seashore, its Wilderness, and the public.
Cumberland Island is the only barrier island in Georgia with feral horses. Despite their popularity with tourists, they have caused serious damage to the island’s native ecosystem.
Thriving in a non-native environment is difficult for these grassland mammals; their flowing manes and long-haired tails can be deadly in vine-tangled forests, where they are snared and held until death.
Open expanses of salt marsh may seem potentially hospitable, but the weight of a horse is distributed on four small points that offer very little support in its soft mud. Once a horse sinks belly-deep, escape is unlikely; the tide, however, is inevitable. Many have drowned, held fast by the mud.
The National Park Service does not produce annual reports on the horse population (including any encephalitis data), or offer any reports related to staff or visitor injuries. However, it does estimate the herd’s population hovers between 150-200 animals.
In 2016, the NPS did release a brochure to educate the public on some aspects of the horses.
The “wild” horses of Cumberland Island may be a romantic notion for visitors, but they threaten the very ecosystems that create it.
The National Park Service does not produce any reports on the horse population (including encephalitis), or offer any data related to staff or visitor injuries.