On August 19, 2004 U.S. District Judge Howard D. McKibben for the District of Nevada ruled from the bench in favor of WWP's Motion For Summary Judgment in a lawsuit contesting the Bureau of Land Management's decision to issue new livestock grazing permits for three very large BLM grazing allotments in northern Nevada.
The three grazing allotments, the Owyhee, the Sheep Complex and the Big Springs allotments that include over 1,400,000 acres of public land are managed by the Elko Field office of the BLM.
Judge McKibben ordered that the BLM carry out an Environmental Impact Statement for all three allotments. The Judge concurred with WWP's legal opinion that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in issuing the three grazing decisions which increased livestock use significantly.
WWP will be seeking interim grazing terms and conditions pending completion of the EIS. Those terms and conditions when adopted by the court will increase protection for habitat for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, sage grouse, and two imperiled native fish: redband trout and Lahontan cutthroat trout.
This success of this case was dependent on the excellent work of WWP Biodiversity Director Katie Fite who provided the necessary information to bring the case through the filing of protests and appeals at the administrative level of the BLM and the Department of the Interior's Office of Hearings and Appeals.
Western Watersheds Project is ably represented in this Nevada case by attorney Todd Tucci of Advocates For The West Boise, Idaho office and local counsel Henry Egghart of Reno, Nevada.
Thank you Todd, Henry and Katie!
On August 25, 2004 Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the Federal Court for the District of Idaho granted Western Watersheds Project's Motion For Summary Judgment and ordered the Bureau of Land Management not to issue any temporary non-renewable grazing permits on numerous grazing allotments administered by the Jarbidge Field Office of the BLM in Twin Falls and Owyhee Counties in south-central Idaho on the Nevada border.
Judge Winmill's strongly worded Order can be downloaded as a PDF file from the U.S. District Court for Idaho's web site: http://www.id.uscourts.gov/. Follow the links to Case Files then District then Case Files-Non-Restricted and enter the case number 04-181 to reach the case docket sheet where the Order can be downloaded.
The BLM had issued the temporary use permits which greatly increased cattle use over permitted levels without carrying out any analysis as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The BLM and rancher-intervenor's attorneys claimed that a a Department of the Interior Appropriations Bill rider passed under the direction of U.S. Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) in 2003 exempted the BLM from complying with the NEPA and other laws in the issuance of temporary grazing use in the Jarbidge Field Office of the BLM.
Chief Judge Winmill in his decision called the BLM's interpretation of the legislated rider "radical", and rejected the arguments of the Department of Justice and rancher-intervenors' attorneys that Congress in passing the rider intended that the BLM no longer be accountable to environmental laws or judicial review of its actions.
Because many ranchers using public lands in the Jarbidge Field office have been receiving temporary annual grazing use increases every year for over ten years and have increased their cattle herds, they will need to start removing cattle under this order starting , in some cases, almost immediately!
WWP's excellent lead attorney on this lawsuit is Todd Tucci of Advocates For The West's Boise, Idaho office. Thank you again, Todd!
Western Watersheds Project's annual Greenfire Revival, scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 17 -19, 2004 has been cancelled for this year.
The decision to call off the revival came after consideration of two related issues. The dates for this year's revival present a conflict with the Desert Conference in eastern Oregon, slated for Sept. 10 -13 at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Many WWP supporters will be attending -- and some participating in -- the conference and found that traveling to both events was problematic.
Moreover, WWP's expansion this year into other states has been a priority for our organization. Managing this expansion has required a focus of administrative time and resources in 2004 to our new operations rather than the revival at Greenfire Preserve.
While all of WWP's board members and staff regret that the Greenfire Revival will not take place this year, we all look forward to future Revivals in years to come.