Western Watersheds Project has relied on remarkably successful litigation as part of our mission to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife. That reliance continues in 2009 with assistance from many attorneys including the staff at Advocates for the West in Boise and Earthjustice in Bozeman as well as WWP’s own excellent legal staff in Montana, Utah and Arizona.
With cases pending in Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Idaho, WWP is putting federal and state agencies to judicial tests in courtrooms around the west.
When someone asks me if WWP’s legal efforts are too combative, I always ask them : What better way is there to make sure that our federal and state land and wildlife managers comply with the the statutes created by the Congress of the United States and signed by the President ?
Here then are some of WWP’s current legal efforts for everyone’s review. You can also read much more at WWP’s legal pages.
The Lemhi River in central/eastern Idaho drains the Lemhi, Bitterroot and other mountains; and enters the Salmon River just north of the town of Salmon, Idaho. The Lemhi watershed provides habitat for three species of threatened fish: Snake River spring/summer Chinook salmon, Snake River steelhead, and Upper Columbia River bull trout. Endangered sockeye salmon migrate past the mouth of the Lemhi River in the Salmon River on their way between their spawning grounds in headwater lakes of the Salmon River and the ocean.
Livestock grazing on these public lands is a threat this ESA protected fishery.
This action challenges a decision by the United States Forest Service to permit private livestock companies to drive approximately 8,000 domestic sheep across the Tonto and Apache Sitgreaves National Forests in August and September of 2009. The sheep would be herded from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest near Springerville, Arizona to the northeastern corner of the Tonto National Forest near Heber, Arizona, and then diagonally across the entirety of the Tonto National Forest to its southwestern edge near Mesa. The trip takes about a month to complete.
Domestic sheep cause a number of environmental impacts to vegetation, soil productivity, and water quality, but perhaps most important is the effect domestic sheep have on wild bighorn sheep. Domestic sheep carry disease that is fatal to wild bighorn, and transmission of disease from domestic sheep to wild bighorn sheep is a well-documented occurrence that has devastated many bighorn sheep populations in the American West.
The challenged grazing decision reissued a ten-year livestock grazing permit for the Burnt Creek allotment, which is within a Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and comprises almost 5,000 acres of important habitat for sage-grouse, bull trout, and many other species.
Livestock grazing has degraded this habitat and other resource values, yet BLM has refused to meaningfully modify grazing to address these degraded conditions. Instead, BLM has reauthorized status quo grazing and additional “range projects” for livestock, contrary to multiple provisions in its governing land use plan as well as governing direction on Wilderness Study Areas, and has refused to take a “hard look” at the environmental consequences of its actions.
WWP has successfully settled litigation brought against the Bureau of Land Management for its unlawful use of Categorical Exclusions (CEs/CXs) to authorize grazing, vegetation management and fuels reduction projects. BLM had used, and continues to use, Categorical Exclusions to avoid conducting appropriate environmental analysis of the impact its actions will have to the environment.
As part of the stipulated agreement, the Bureau of Land Management will halt its use of CEs for vegetation management, fuels reduction, and livestock grazing across the entire country and voluntarily withdraw over 15 previous decisions implemented under a CE.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) gave the green light today on a petition submitted by Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians requesting protection (listing) for the Sonoran desert tortoise under the Endangered Species Act. The finding means that the Service will now conduct a full review to determine if the tortoise warrants being placed on the list of threatened and endangered species.
Should a listing take place, many human intrusions into the desert tortoise’s southwest desert habitat, including livestock grazing and excessive development, will be largely halted. The benefit of such will be enjoyed by a great number of desert wildlife species.
WWP recently filed suit in Federal Court in Denver, Colorado to stop a 250,000 acre grazing project located on Colorado's Pike-San Isabel National Forest.
The grazing plans call for a continuation of historic grazing in the area, which even the Forest Service has acknowledged will harm water quality, range vegetation, wildlife habitat, and soil productivity beyond federal standards.
Monday, WWP and wolf-coalition partners argued in Montana District Court asking Judge Molloy to enjoin the federal government's delisting rule and re-instate federal protections for wolves while the merits of the case are heard.
For those interested in this case, WWP has made our legal filings available on the wolf page.
Western Watersheds Project Is A West Regional Conservation Organization Working To Protect And Restore Western Watersheds And Wildlife
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