Western Watersheds Project Files Litigation To Block New Bureau of Land Management Grazing Regulations

Online Messenger #116

The Revised BLM Grazing Rules Would Effectively Eliminate The Public From Public Lands Ranching Management!

On June 12, 2006 the Bureau of Land Management and the Department of the Interior published in the Federal Register revised regulations for administering livestock grazing on 160,000,000 acres of public land across the American west (http://www.blm.gov/nhp/news/releases/pages/2006/pr060712_grazing.htm). The new regulations will go into effect in 30 days unless stopped. WWP has asked the federal court to issue a preliminary injunction or a temporary retraining order to block their implementation.

The revised regulations continue the sorry history of the Bush Administration's management of public lands by gutting BLM's current grazing regulations that were implemented in 1995 by then Secretary of the Interior, Bruce Babbitt.

The revised regulations would implement many measures to benefit ranchers on public lands including delaying for years necessary reductions in livestock numbers and season of use, cutting out the public from the BLM's decision making process and harming habitat for all wildlife and native fish including many species listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Here is a copy of WWP's news release of July 12, 2006:

News Release
July 12, 2006

Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project: 208-788-2290
Laird Lucas, Advocates for the West: 208-424-1466

Western Watersheds Project Sues to Stop New BLM Reulations That Give Away Control of Public Lands to Ranchers

Western Watersheds Project, the nation's leading conservation group working to protect fish and wildlife from livestock grazing throughout the West, is asking a federal court to stop BLM from adopting new grazing regulations that give away control of public lands to ranchers.

On the same day that BLM announced the new regulations, Western Watersheds filed motions in U.S. District Court in Boise (Case No. 05-297) asking for an injunction to stop them from taking effect, because BLM is violating several federal laws. These include the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

"BLM's new grazing regulations will give up control over millions of acres of our public lands to ranchers." said WWP Executive Director Jon Marvel. "

Under the new regulations, BLM is allowing ranchers to dictate terms of grazing while excluding the public," said WWP's lead attorney, Laird Lucas, "and the result will be widespread harm to fish and wildlife due to overgrazing."

Lucas added that many biologists and other experts, including with BLM, had warned the agency that the new regulations would have "serious, long-term adverse effects" for wildlife and fish, but BLM has refused to heed their advice. "

BLM actually changed the analysis of its own experts, to claim the regulations will benefit wildlife, when the experts said just the opposite." Lucas noted that one of BLM's experts, Erick Campbell (now retired from the agency), had provided a declaration to the Court confirming that BLM changed his analysis. "

Our public lands are required to be managed to support many different uses, including hunting, fishing and recreation," said WWP's Marvel, "but BLM's plans will mean that ranchers can now override those uses. Not only does that violate federal law, but it is dishonest for BLM to pretend these regulations will not harm fish and wildlife. The American public deserves an honest explanation as well as compliance with our laws."

Look at the relevant legal documents (PDF files):
Opening Brief in Support of Immediate Injunction for ESA Violations
Opening Brief in Support of Immediate Injunction for NEPA Violations
Motion for Immediate Injunction for NEPA Violations
Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint
First Amended Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief