This news release went out to the Idaho and Oregon Press today.
Hailey, February 29, 2000
A federal judge has granted conservationists their latest victory over grazing abuses in the Owyhee Canyonlands, issuing an injunction today which sharply limits grazing practices to protect streams and wildlife until BLM completes thorough environmental studies of grazing impacts.
The injunction was issued by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, in a suit brought by Idaho Watersheds Project and Committee for Idaho's High Desert over grazing on the 1.8 million acre Owyhee Resource Area. The court last found found that BLM violated federal law in 1997, when it issued 68 permits for grazing on the resource area.
The injunction orders BLM to undertake detailed environmental studies of grazing on all "high priority" allotments on the resource area by 2003, a significantly faster time frame than BLM had planned. "The Court is confident that the BLM will obtain the funding necessary to meet an expedited schedule," the order stated.
Until the allotment reviews are completed, grazing will be required to meet several "interim measures" designed to protect water quality and streamside areas from livestock trampling and other impacts. These interim measures impose environmental protections that livestock ranchers have never had to meet before in the Owyhee country.
The court rejected ranchers' arguments that the interim conditions were too stringent, noting the Court "has the authority to invalidate the permits and stop all grazing immediately," but that the interim measures were more "narrowly tailored" to protect environmental concerns while allowing grazing to proceed.
"We are pleased that the court has agreed that more needs to be done to protect the Owyhee country from grazing mismanagement," said Laird Lucas, an attorney with the LAW Fund who represents the environmental groups. "This is a key step toward reversing the decades of abuse which grazing has caused to the streams, fish and wildlife of the Owyhee Canyonlands."