Western Watersheds Project Litigation
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LOOK AT the complete legal docket for WWP's Wolves & SNRA Lawsuit!

Victories in Court

After Filing Litigation To Block New BLM Grazing Regulations, WWP Wins A National Court Injunction
On June 8, 2007 WWP was granted a federal court victory through a Court Order issued by federal court Idaho District Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill that stops the Bureau of Land Management from implementing any part of the of new grazing regulations affecting the administration of livestock grazing on 160,000,000 acres of western public lands.

Take a look at the Press Release re: Court Order

Take a look at the Decision

On August 11, 2006 WWP was granted a federal court victory through a preliminary injunction issued by federal court Idaho District Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill that stops the Bureau of Land Management from implementing any reductions in public involvement in the administration of livestock grazing on 160,000,000 acres of western public lands until WWP’s litigation on the new regulations is resolved.

Take a look at the Press Release re: Filing
Take a look at the Press Release re: Court Order
Take a look at the Opening Brief (ESA Violations)
Take a look at the Opening Brief (NEPA Violations)

Take a look at the Motion for Immediate Injunction
Take a look at the Motion to File Amended Complaint
Take a look at the First Amended Complaint

Judge James Heffernan Overturns Squaw Valley and Spanish Ranch Grazing Decision
On March 1, 2006 Judge James Heffernan’s OHA decision overturned Elko BLM’s Squaw Valley and Spanish Ranch allotments grazing decision.

Take a look at the Decision

WWP Files North Fork Sheep Litigation Affecting over 150,000 acres in the Sawtooth NRA
The following legal filings were made in federal district court in Boise on November 3, 2005 for WWP's North Fork Sheep EIS litigation affecting over 150,000 acres of Forest Service managed land in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and the Ketchum Ranger District (both located in the Sawtooth National Forest).

Take a look at the Opening Brief
Take a look at the Statement of Facts
Take a look at the Carter Declaration
Take a look at the Marvel Declaration
Take a look at the Mitchell Declaration

On Tuesday February 7, 2006 Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the United States District Court For The District of Idaho Issued An Order Awarding Summary Judgment To Western Watersheds Project In Litigation Affecting Four Large Sheep Grazing Allotments And 150,000 Acres On The Sawtooth National Recreation Area And The Ketchum Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest.

Take a look at the EIS & RODs Summary Judgment

Idaho Federal Magistrate Awards Western Watersheds Project Yet Another Court Victory
Federal Magistrate Judge Mikel Williams Agrees With WWP And Throws Out The Decision By The U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Not To List Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum).

Take a look at the Press Release
Take a look at Judge Williams' Court Order

Major WWP Court Victory Orders Cattle Off Of 800,000 Acres Of Public Land
Western Watersheds Project wins a major Federal court victory ordering the immediate removal of cattle from over 800,000 acres of public lands In the Jarbidge Field Office of the BLM! This remarkable court victory for WWP affects 28 BLM grazing allotments located southwest of Twin Falls, Idaho to the Nevada border in the Jarbidge Field Office of the BLM.

Take a look at the Press Release
Take a look at how the BLM is dragging it's feet!
Take a look at Judge Winmill's Court Order

Western Watersheds Files Lawsuit To Block Major Changes To BLM Grazing Regulations On 160,000,000 Acres Of Public Lands
On July 21, 2005 Western Watersheds Project (WWP), a western regional conservation group based in Hailey, Idaho, filed a lawsuit in federal District Court for the District of Idaho seeking to block implementation of proposed new grazing regulations for 160,000,000 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The lawsuit was assigned to Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The litigation includes a request for injunctive relief that, if granted, will prevent the new regulations from going into effect pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

Take a look at the Press Release
Take a look at the Marvel Declaration

Take a look at the Complaint
Take a look at the Opening Brief For Injunctive Relief

Western Watersheds Project Wins Court Ruling on Upper Salmon Basin

Take a look at the Press Release
Take a look at the Court Ruling

WWP Comments on the Bush Administration's Proposed Changes to BLM's Grazing Rules
Western Watersheds Project has issued two comments regarding the Bush Administration's proposed changes to BLM's grazing rules.

Take a look at the May 2003 Comments
(This is an MS Word Document)
Take a look at the February 2004Comments

Western Watersheds Project has sued the Bureau of Land Management for violating federal environmental laws and the Challis Resource Management Plan on the Burnt Creek allotment in east-central Idaho..

Take a look at the Complaint filed.
(This is an MS Word Document)


Western Watersheds Project wins retirement of 16,000 acres of Idaho State School Endowment Lands

Capping a four year effort, Western Watersheds Project has won a decision from the Idaho State Land Board to retire 16,300 acres of state school endowment lands from livestock grazing indefinitely.

The lands - known as the Lacey Meadows lease - are located south of Weippe, Idaho. The Lewis and Clark expedition's lives were saved by the Nez Perce Indians who they first encountered on this lease area in September 1805. The 16,300 acres lie  within the Lolo Creek watershed - habitat for endangered salmon and steel head - and are managed to provide income for Idaho's public schools and other endowments.

"These lands have enormous historical and recreational value for hunters and fisherman," said Gene Bray, a board member of Western Watersheds, "but they have cost the state more money to manage for livestock grazing then the income grazing produced - and the cows were destroying the area's streams, soils and vegetation."

Western Watersheds has sought since 1993 to improve management of state school endowment lands and increase income to public schools by offering to pay more for grazing leases and not grazing them, to allow damaged lands to recover.
On the Lacey Meadows parcel, Western Watersheds outbid the grazing operators four years ago for a 10-year lease. The Idaho Land Board initially rejected that higher offer, asserting that grazing was a necessary management tool.

An Idaho state court reversed that decision in 2001, ordering the Land Board to conduct a hearing on whether grazing would aid management or harm the land. After that hearing, the Idaho Department of Lands changed its position and agreed that grazing was damaging the resources of Lacey Meadows and producing little if any income.

The Department of Lands thus recommended - as Western Watersheds has advocated all along - that grazing be eliminated indefinitely on the Lacey Meadows parcel.

At its December 14, 2004 meeting, the Land Board adopted that recommendation, deciding to stop leasing the land for grazing in order to protect the state's forest resources from livestock damage. Governor Dirk Kempthorne, Superintendent of Schools Marilyn Howard, and Controller Keith Johnson all voted to support the Land Board decision (Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Secretary of State Ben Ysursa did not participate).

WWP Board member Gene Bray commented about this great victory: "The Land Board has finally acknowledged that certain lands can be much more valuable if they are not grazed by livestock, because grazing yields so little income and harms the land. This is what we have been saying for years, and what the science shows beyond doubt. I'm encouraged that the Governor and other members of the Land Board are now seeing this."


WWP Legal Efforts are Winning!
By Laird Lucas

A key part of Western Watersheds Project's work is using the courts to enforce our nation's environmental laws and improve management of our public lands. Recent experience illustrates how WWP's legal victories do promote changes in management and improve conditions on the ground.

How WWP's Legal Program Works

Over the last five years or so, WWP's staff has worked in close partnership with the attorneys at Advocates for the West to develop a broad portfolio of legal cases, involving literally dozens of court cases and appeals across six western states.

These cases use a variety of legal tools - including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Federal Lands Policy and Management Act, National Forest Management Act, and other laws - in order to protect fish and wildlife, improve their habitat, and block further degradation by greedy resource industries and complicit agencies.

Typically, cases are identified through on-the-ground work of WWP's staff and its network of activists and expert scientists - who usually know what is happening to the land better than the local BLM or Forest Service office.

Then the lawyers, scientists, and activists collaborate as a team to establish goals and strategies intended to maximize our leverage, and identify good litigation opportunities. Sometimes we focus on one specific allotment - that may have high resource values, or offer a good opportunity to set precedent - and sometimes we bring large cases sweeping in millions of acres of public lands within an ecosystem or landscape.

At essence, WWP's legal strategy is to "marry" law with science - proving to a court how an agency's decisions (or failure to act) is harming the land and violating the law.

Scope of WWP's Litigation Program

WWP now has pending cases challenging abusive livestock grazing on 12 million acres of public lands across the West, in Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Utah, and Oregon. No other conservation group has such an ambitious public lands grazing litigation program - and aside from our many victories (some described below), the sheer size of these efforts is helping to promote change in public lands grazing.

In addition, WWP is also pursuing protections for many imperiled fish, wildlife and plant species under the Endangered Species Act. These species typically are representative of the declining sage-steppe ecosystem - including the sage grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, pygmy rabbit, mountain quail, and slickspot peppergrass. WWP is also seeking ESA listing of the Montana fluvial Arctic grayling, a stunning fish that now is only found in small parts of the Big Hole Basin in Montana.

WWP is also using the courts to fight Bush Administration efforts to cut off public access to agency documents and information under the Freedom of Information Act. We won two FOIA cases already this year, and have others pending.

Finally, WWP is also working with other conservation groups to battle irresponsible and destructive public lands projects, aside from grazing. These include our successes in the last two years blocking plans by USDA Wildlife Services to kill 75% of foxes, coyotes, badgers and other so-called "predators" of sage grouse in parts of southern Idaho; three years of success in blocking other Wildlife Services' plans to spray malathion and other poisons across southern Idaho to control crickets and grasshoppers; battling plans to burn sagebrush or juniper in Idaho and Nevada; and similar misguided schemes by public agencies.

Our Victories Are Helping To Protect The Land

Because we are careful in selecting cases, and use the strong combination of law-plus-science to prosecute the cases we bring, WWP has established a strong track record of victories - not only in court, but on the ground too.

In Wyoming, for example, WWP filed suit in September 2003 challenging grazing by rogue rancher Frank Robbins on 50,000 acres of public lands in the Bighorn Basin, near the Wind River mountains. This lawsuit has already succeeded in forcing BLM to rescind a behind-closed-doors "settlement" with Robbins - and resulted in halting Robbins' grazing in 2004. We are now moving to have the court order BLM to rescind Robbins' permits because of his history of violating environmental laws; and intend to prohibit further grazing by Robbins on public lands in 2005 and future years.

In Utah, WWP filed federal court litigation in 2002, challenging BLM's issuance of over 70 grazing permits covering 1.5 million acres in the northern part of the state. We are now nearing final settlement of this case, which will require BLM to conduct riparian inventories and improve stream conditions, while using the latest science to prepare a comprehensive environmental analysis of livestock grazing Impacts.

In northern Nevada - where there are really no other conservation groups examining BLM and Forest Service land management decisions - WWP has brought several court cases and administrative appeals that are shaking up the agencies and ranching industry. One case, settled last year, required the Forest Service to improve stream protections from grazing on dozens of allotments in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forests. A second case, which we just won, requires BLM to perform a full Environmental Impact Statement assessing grazing Impacts upon sage grouse and other sensitive species on over a million and a half acres in the Elko region. WWP also just won an administrative appeal blocking BLM from embarking on a costly new "welfare ranching" program in the Squaw Creek area.

Much of the focus of WWP's legal efforts, however, continues to be on Idaho public lands. In the stunning canyonlands of the Jarbidge and Bruneau rivers, we are challenging BLM's mismanagement of grazing on 1.4 million acres. We won a court injunction this summer blocking ranchers from increasing grazing beyond their permit limits, which BLM tried to allow under the authority of a recent grazing "rider." That case will next demonstrate that BLM has wrongly "outsourced" its scientific monitoring and assessment to the livestock industry, dominated by Simplot Livestock Company - the single largest public lands rancher in the United States.

WWP is also continuing its focus on improving streams and uplands on the 1.8 million acres of the Owyhee Resource Area, in southwestern Idaho. WWP previously won a sweeping injunction - affirmed by the 9th Circuit appeals court - requiring BLM to conduct detailed assessments of all allotment conditions, and ordering interim stream protection measures. But the Bush Administration has forced out BLM staff trying to do their job, and brought in rancher "experts" to run the Owyhee office. WWP is now bringing court cases and appeals to prevent this political interference from weakening grazing reforms in this area.

Finally, in central Idaho, WWP's Greenfire Preserve has provided the base for many legal efforts intended to improve fisheries and wildlife habitat values. We continue to use the Endangered Species Act to force irrigators on public and private lands to modernize their diversions, and promote recovery of salmon, steelhead and bull trout. We are suing the Forest Service to force it to adhere to the Salmon Challis National Forest plans in managing livestock grazing and range improvements. We have protected wolves from being killed on the Sawtooth National Recreation Area for the last three years. This year we won another injunction ordering the Forest Service to close large parts of the Lower East Fork allotment (in the Boulder-White Cloud mountains) to livestock grazing because of cattle damage to high altitude lakes and streams.

As a direct result of these efforts, streams are now flowing that were historically dammed and diverted; riparian areas are recovering; and ranching operators in central Idaho are having to spend money to improve their operations - or are now willing to seek permanent retirement of their grazing allotments or water rights. The fact that ranchers in the East Fork Salmon River drainage are willing to support a Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill, with federal retirement of their grazing permits, demonstrates the power of WWP's legal efforts in central Idaho.


Legal efforts have always been a powerful part of the conservation movement. WWP ranks among the most sophisticated and aggressive in using the courts to enforce our environmental laws and promote sound management of our public lands.

Laird J. Lucas has served as WWP's outside counsel for the last five years. He is also Executive Director of Advocates for the West, a public interest environmental law nonprofit based in Boise. To learn more about Advocates for the West, visit their website at www.AdvocatesWest.org.

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