Lawsuit by WWP and Friends Blocks Weakening of Sage Grouse Plans!

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Photo Courtesy FWS

October 16, 2019

 

Today, with our allies at Advocates for the West, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Prairie Hills Audubon Society, Western Watersheds Project successfully blocked Trump administration plans allowing expanded drilling, mining, livestock grazing and other destructive activities across 51 million acres of greater sage-grouse habitat on Bureau of Land Management land in seven western states: Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California, and Oregon!

In his order granting a preliminary injunction, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the administration failed to analyze how sage grouse would be harmed under the March 2019 land-use plans:

The stated purpose of the 2019 Plan Amendments was to enhance cooperation between the BLM and the States by modifying the BLM’s protections for sage grouse to better align with plans developed by the States. While this is a purpose well-within the agency’s discretion, the effect on the ground was to substantially reduce protections for sage grouse without any explanation that the reductions were justified by, say, changes in habitat, improvement in population numbers, or revisions to the best science contained in the NTT and [COT] Reports.  

This ruling throws a wrench into the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken protections for the greater sage-grouse and expand the uses of public lands for extractive industries like oil and gas and livestock grazing. Specifically, the ruling reinstates habitat objectives requiring livestock grazing to leave behind grass at least 7 inches tall, requirements that all approved projects result in a net conservation gain for sage grouse, and a requirement that oil and gas leasing and drilling be prioritized outside designated sage grouse habitats. It also restores important habitat designations in Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Idaho that were stripped away by the Trump plan amendments. This win helps hundreds of other types of plants and wildlife that depend on the sagebrush sea, from elk to pygmy rabbits to golden eagles.

Today’s preliminary injunction win keeps the plans from going into effect until our March 2019 lawsuit is resolved.  Earlier this month we objected to the Forest Service’s plans to do the same thing to their version of the sage-grouse amendments, and will be looking at legal options whenever the final decisions are issued.

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