WWP Victories in Arizona

Online Messenger #210

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Western Watersheds Project's Arizona office has had two administrative successes in the last month:

1. Administrative Law Judge Andrew Pearlstein Rules in Favor of Western Watersheds Project

In May, WWP filed an administrative appeal of the decision for the WAY grazing allotment near Wickenburg, Arizona. The Bureau of Land Management sought first to have the appeal dismissed for lack of standing but WWP prevailed in demonstrating our concrete interests in the project. Having failed in that tactic, BLM moved to have the decision “vacated and remanded,” meaning that the appeal would be moot and would not be decided on the merits. This turns out to be a common tactic of the agency and it forestalls an admission of wrongdoing or court-ordered changes, and the agency usually has their requests granted. However, this time, WWP opposed the request to vacate and remand. In a rare and unprecedented win, Administrative Law Judge Pearlstein agreed that the agency was attempting to thwart the appeals process saying, “The only real effect of granting BLM’s motion to vacate the final grazing decision would be to deprive the Appellant of its right and opportunity under the Taylor Grazing Act….”

Judge Pearlstein's Order directs the BLM to respond to WWP's Motion for Summary Judgment by a date certain !

Stay tuned for Judge Pearlstein's ruling on the merits, expected later this fall.

2. Western Watersheds Project Wins A Preliminary Victory on the Sonoran Desert National Monument

Western Watersheds Project has been pushing the BLM to implement proper management on the Sonoran Desert National Monument for many years.

Under legal settlement, BLM has now released its draft resource management plan (DRMP) for public comment. Much to our surprise, the preferred alternative actually closes a significant portion of the monument to livestock grazing ! This is the first and only national monument plan in the country that even proposes such a sensible alternative. Of course, WWP will be seeking complete closure, knowing as we do that grazing anywhere in the fragile Sonoran Desert is a bad idea, but we’re thrilled that the agency has seen the light on 95,000 acres proposed for closure to livestock grazing.

Without the efforts of Western Watersheds Project’s Arizona Office and WWP’s attorney Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West, it is highly unlikely that the BLM would have recommended this closure to livestock grazing.

The public comment period on the plan extends through November 25, 2011 and there are numerous public meetings between now and then. If you’d like to get involved or send in your own comments, please contact WWP’s Arizona Director Greta Anderson ( greta@westernwatersheds.org ) for more information.