WWP Files Lawsuit To Block Major Changes To BLM Grazing Regulations On 160,000,000 Acres Of Public Lands

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Here is the news release sent out by Western Watersheds Project today (July 26, 2005)

Western Watersheds Project News Release July 26, 2005

Western Watersheds Project Sues The Bureau Of Land Management To Block Major Changes To Public Land Grazing Regulations

On July 21, 2005 Western Watersheds Project (WWP), a western regional conservation group based in Hailey, Idaho, filed a lawsuit in federal District Court for the District of Idaho seeking to block implementation of proposed new grazing regulations for 160,000,000 acres of public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The lawsuit was assigned to Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The litigation includes a request for injunctive relief that, if granted, will prevent the new regulations from going into effect pending the outcome of the lawsuit.

The lawsuit charges that the BLM has violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by suppressing scientific information from its own staff, other government agencies and the general public. Additional claims include violations of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

BLM's revisions of its grazing regulations were approved in a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) entitled "Proposed Revisions to Grazing Regulations for the Public Lands, Final Environmental Impact Statement FES 04-39" that was released on June 17, 2005. The changes are expected to be final in August 2005.

The proposed grazing regulation changes include many provisions to prevent the BLM from effectively managing western public lands to prevent abuses by cattle and sheep. Among these changes are ones that require up to five years of monitoring data before the BLM can reduce cattle or sheep use and major delays in implementing reductions in livestock by requiring reduction of over 10% to be phased in over several years instead of in the next year of grazing use.

The new regulations also provide for ownership by ranchers of new fencing, cattle guards and water development on public lands and permit ranchers to hold water rights on public lands for their livestock - a provision that may introduce property takings issues when livestock numbers on public land grazing allotments need to be reduced.

WWP attorney Laurie Rule stated: "BLM's revisions to the grazing regulations are much more than mere minor administrative changes, as BLM's own scientists as well as scientists from other agencies recognize. They substantially impair BLM's ability to protect natural resources on public lands and the ability of the public to participate in the management of their lands."

"BLM has violated our nation's basic environmental laws by gutting requirements that livestock grazing must meet minimum ecological standards on the public lands -- and then falsely denying that its doing so," said Laird J. Lucas, lead attorney for Western Watersheds.

He added that "BLM actually changed the analysis of its own expert scientists without telling anyone, even though they said that weakening controls on grazing will cause long-term harm to fish and wildlife. And we are now discovering that the Bush Administration has suppressed similar concerns from other agencies. This lawsuit is intended to force out the truth -- that BLM is rolling back protections for fish and wildlife on our public lands, at the bidding of the livestock industry, and covering that up from the American people."

Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project stated: "The proposed changes to BLM's grazing rules are nothing less than a rollback to the rancher controlled era of fifty years ago. BLM is choosing to cut the public out of grazing management on public lands and to ignore the desire of Americans to protect and recover our native wildlife and watersheds across the west."

Western Watersheds Project is represented in this litigation by attorneys Judi Brawer, Laurie Rule and Laird Lucas of the Boise office of Advocates For The West (http://www.advocateswest.org).

Look at the legal documents filed to date by WWP:

Take a look at the Marvel Declaration

Take a look at the Complaint

Take a look at the Opening Brief For Injunctive Relief

Copies of the litigation's Complaint and related documents can also be reviewed at the Advocates For The West website: http://www.advocateswest.org