A Massive Elko Nevada BLM Decision Is Stayed By Court Order

Online Messenger #87

In a notable Decision Judge James Heffernan of the Department Of The Interior's Office of Hearings and Appeals' Salt Lake City Office has granted a Petition For Stay from Western Watersheds Project that stops a very bad Bureau of Land Management grazing decision in western Elko County, Nevada.

WWP Biodiversity Director Katie Fite deserves thanks for this successful defense of public lands.

Thank you Katie!

Here is the WWP News release sent out today (9/16/04)

Judge Halts Massive Elko BLM Fencing and Sagebrush Spraying Scheme Designed To Benefit Barrick Gold Mine Cattle Grazing

The Department of the Interior's Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) has granted a Petition For Stay from Western Watersheds Project. The Stay blocks a recent decision for the enormous Squaw Valley and Spanish Ranch Allotments by the Elko Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

The permittees grazing on these public land allotments are Barrick Goldstrike, a foreign-owned mining company, and Ellison Ranches. The vast allotments encompass several hundred thousand acres in the heart of the sagebrush sea in western Elko County, Nevada. These lands provide essential habitat for sage grouse, pygmy rabbit, a wealth of migratory birds, antelope, mule deer and many other important wildlife species including threatened Lahontan cutthroat and redband trout.

OHA Administrative Law Judge James Heffernan's decision blocks a convoluted grazing scheme that relied on construction of over one hundred miles of new fence, mostly at taxpayer's expense. The Stay also prevents the implementation of BLM's proposed herbiciding of large areas of sagebrush to increase forage for Barrick Goldstrike's cattle.

"This court action will prevent a truly bad decision from going into effect," said Katie Fite, WWP's Director of Biodiversity, "BLM never even considered significant reductions in livestock numbers despite its own overwhelming documentation of the harms caused by current livestock grazing to streams, springs and the sagebrush uplands. Fortunately, Judge Heffernan recognized that irreparable harm would occur to the environment if the massive amount of fencing and herbiciding were to go ahead."

"Ironically, part of this BLM decision was supposed mitigation for the massive environmental damage and aquifer depletion caused by Barrick Goldstrike's cyanide heap leach mining, but instead of gaining meaningful protections for public lands, BLM chose to destroy and further fragment sagebrush habitats for the sole benefit of Barrick Goldstrike's cattle" said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project.