"Grazing Must Yield": Federal Court Decision Holds That Protecting Sage-Grouse Must Take Priority Over Livestock Grazing in Owyhee Canyonlands

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"To the extent livestock and sage grouse conflict, it is grazing that must yield"


Earlier this week Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the federal district court of Idaho affirmed Western Watersheds Project's challenge to five Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grazing decisions in Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands that harmed Greater sage-grouse. The court held that, "To the extent livestock and sage grouse conflict, it is grazing that must yield."

Judge Winmill found that BLM decisions to renew unchanged grazing have failed to prioritize protections for the charismatic native bird.

The repercussions of this victory will be far-reaching. The court's decision on these five allotments serves as a test case that will positively implicate hundreds of BLM grazing decisions made by the Owyhee and Bruneau Field Offices. This includes decisions WWP challenged in this case and all future grazing decisions.

The positive changes created through the relief of livestock impacts on sagebrush habitat and wildlife in the Owyhee Canyonlands following this important decision will be exciting to observe in coming years.

In the 55-page order, Judge Winmill agreed with each of Western Watersheds Project's claims that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Federal Land Policy Management Act, the Fundamentals of Rangeland Health and the Bureau of Land Management's Owyhee and Bruneau Field Offices' own Range Management Plans.

Western Watersheds Project's news release can be found here:

Grazing Must Yield: Court Decision Prioritizes Sage-Grouse Habitat in Idaho's Owyhee Canyonlands

Read the Court Decision

Western Watersheds Project received excellent legal represenation in this case by Todd Tucci and Kristin Ruether with Advocates for the West in Boise. Katie Fite, WWP's Biodiversity Director, and Ken Cole, WWP's NEPA Coordinator, provided invaluable assistance during this lengthy process.

Thanks Todd, Kristin, Katie, and Ken !

February 13, 2012