Another Federal Court Win for IWP


In another remarkable victory for IWP in the arcane world of BLM public lands ranching administration, Idaho Federal District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a ruling July 13 which denied in all respects the Owyhee County, Idaho Cliffs Allotment grazing permittee's request for a preliminary injunction to halt the new grazing permit/system, which requires them to remove cattle by July 15th.

First, the Court granted Idaho Watersheds Project and the Committee for Idaho's High Desert intervention in the case, which the permittees had opposed.

Second, the Court rejected BLM's argument that the permittees could not even be in federal court because they did not file an appeal or stay request with the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA). IWP had joined with the permittees on this argument, because IWP wishes to be able to sidestep IBLA when necessary to get prompt judicial relief.

Third, the Court had a good discussion of the Fundamentals of Rangeland Health and IWP's 9th Circuit decision last year; and emphasized that the BLM had to follow the requirement that grazing be changed before the next grazing season after finding FRH violations. It also noted how this case was part of IWP's and CIHD's injunction ordering BLM to take a hard look at the problem allotments in the Owyhee Resource Area and come up with new permits.

Fourth, the Court granted IWP's and CIHD's motion to dismiss the permittee's claims that BLM violated NEPA, because (under 9th Circuit authority) economic interests do not give standing under NEPA.

Fifth, the Court found that the weighing of "hardships" (which is required in an injunction) did not favor the permittees, who claim they will go out business) because of the many years of environmental degradation and public interests in protecting the environment, and thus "livestock grazing must be reduced.".

Sixth, the Court cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court case (Public Lands Council v. Babbitt) and rejected the permittees' claim that their grazing permits were property rights.

Seventh, the Court found it was very unlikely they would show BLM acted "arbitrary and capriciously" here, because it did an EA tiered to the EIS, did the Standards & Guidelines assessment, had lots of public meetings and comments. etc. As part of this the Court rejected the permittees' whining that BLM did not adequately consult with them. So the Court denied the ranchers' injunction request. IWP expects the permittees to take an emergency appeal to the 9th Circuit, since the 15th is Saturday, but there is very little chance they will succeed there.

IWP and CIHD were represented with aplomb by the premier public lands conservation attorney in the United States, Laird Lucas of the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies' Boise Office along with the capable assistance of staff attorneys Mindy Harm and Bill Eddie.