Western Watersheds Project, with the exceptional help of Advocates for the West's attorney, Natalie Havlina, recently won an important stay of a Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) proposal to build fencing on one of the lower 48 states' largest unfenced landscapes, the Green Mountain Common Allotment in Wyoming.
On May 19th, Administrative Law Judge Harvey C. Sweitzer ruled in favor of WWP’s petition for stay in the case against BLM’s decision to maintain the status quo grazing management and construct 32 miles of fencing in the ailing 522,000 acre Green Mountain Common allotment.
The Green Mountain Common allotment, one of the largest unfenced areas of BLM administered lands outside of Alaska, has been embroiled by controversy for decades due to severely degraded watershed conditions within the allotment and the repeated failures of the BLM to take the actions necessary for recovery...
News Release 5/27/10:
A federal judge has ruled in favor of Western Watersheds Project and reversed a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision to allow livestock grazing on the Kanab Gulch grazing allotment on the Arizona Strip. “The undisputed material facts show that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act,” said Administrative Law Judge Harvey C. Sweitzer, and he sent the decision back to the drawing board.
Kanab Gulch allotment consists entirely of public lands and is within the Kanab Creek Wilderness Area, near the Grand Canyon National Park and the Kaibab National Forest. The allotment has important archeological remains, and it provides habitat for desert bighorn sheep, mule deer, pronghorn, and other wildlife. Although livestock are known to impact these sensitive resources, the BLM considered only one management alternative: the status quo. The National Environmental Policy Act requires agencies to consider multiple alternatives so that the impacts of a proposed action can be viewed in context.
The status quo isn’t going to cut it anymore,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director of Western Watersheds Project. “The BLM has been managing this allotment in the same way since at least 1979. Times have changed, and the American public is interested in protecting our outstanding public lands for more than cheap forage for livestock operators. In places like Kanab Gulch, the BLM should be taking a hard look at what those other interests may be.
The judge determined that the BLM failed to consider a range of reasonable alternatives, relied on outdated environmental analyses, neglected to consider public comments, and failed to consider the conflicts between livestock grazing and desert bighorn sheep habitat. The ruling also reminded the BLM that relying on land management plans in place of site-specific decision-making unacceptable. Western Watersheds Project had raised all of these points in its appeal of the decision in June of 2009.
WWP filed a lawsuit on May 21 against the Bureau of Land Management to halt a proposal to conduct commercial livestock grazing on 615,000 acres of arid desert lands near Yuma, Arizona.
The lands in question average less than four inches of rain per year.
The lands encompass two remote Wilderness Areas, including the 100,000 acre Eagletail Wilderness Area, which is treasured by hikers, hunters, and wildlife viewers for its wildlife, cultural and botanical resources, and its rugged desert scenery.
Read the News Release to learn more.