Conservation Group Sues For Information on Trump Administration’s Secret Grazing Program

For Immediate Release
September 24, 2019

Contacts: 

Scott Lake, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 429-1679, scott@westernwatersheds.org

Paul Ruprecht, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 421-4637, paul@westernwatersheds.org

BOISE, Ida. – Western Watersheds Project filed suit today in federal court against the Interior Department, challenging the Department’s withholding of public records concerning a secret livestock grazing program.  The suit claims that Interior and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unlawfully withheld information on BLM’s new “outcome-based” grazing initiative from the public, and requests that a federal judge order the Department to disclose the requested records.  The Trump Administration’s Interior Department has frequently made secret arrangements with industry and its allies, while attempting to conceal these arrangements from public view.

“This is the latest example of the Administration favoring industrial agriculture over conservation, biodiversity, and wildlife,” said Scott Lake, Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project.  “Outcome-based grazing appears to be a ploy to put private ranchers in charge of grazing on public lands, and sidestep standards that might otherwise protect our lands and wildlife.”

The “outcome-based” grazing initiative was first announced in September 2017 by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.  The program promised increased “flexibility” for commercial livestock operations that graze on public lands, and de-emphasized “prescriptions” designed to protect habitat for species such as endangered salmon and greater sage-grouse.  More than two years later, BLM appears to be implementing “outcome based” management across the county.  However, the program has yet to undergo any kind of public comment or environmental review process.  Western Watersheds Project requested information on the program in April 2018 but has not received a response from the government.

“Interior’s determination to keep the ‘outcome-based’ grazing program secret is yet another example of how this Administration simply doesn’t believe in the concept of public lands,” said Paul Ruprecht, Nevada-Oregon Director of Western Watersheds Project. “All indications are that this program is nothing more than a give-away to the livestock industry, and the Department’s determination to keep this program a secret is yet one more attempt to remove the public voice from public-lands management.”

Since it was first announced in 2017, “outcome-based” grazing has appeared in BLM planning documents around the country, including the San Pedro Resource Management Plan in Arizona and livestock grazing permit renewals in Idaho.  In the latter case, “outcome-based” management increased grazing by over 200%, while reducing protections for sage-grouse and native fish.   These “outcome-based” authorizations also ignore the impending threat of climate change, and the proven connections between heavy livestock grazing, invasive weeds, and more frequent wildfires.

“Outcome-based grazing promises to be an environmental disaster, and because this is taking place on public lands, the public has a right to know what’s going on,” said David A. Bahr, an attorney representing Western Watersheds Project.  “The Interior Department is violating federal law, as well as the public trust, by keeping these arrangements with industry a secret.”

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