BLM Failed to Adequately Consider Environmental Costs of Grazing on over 48,000 acres of public land in the Pahsimeroi River Watershed .
~ Jon Marvel
In an important court victory, Western Watersheds Project has overturned four BLM grazing authorizations in central Idaho's Pahsimeroi Valley.
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Western Watersheds Project extends its thanks to our legal counsel in this case Kristin Ruether of Advocates for the West and WWP's Biodiversity Director Katie Fite, WWP's Central Idaho Director Larry Zuckerman, and WWP Volunteer David Hayes for their hard work in support of this succesful litigation.
In his decision Judge Lodge takes the BLM to task for misrepresenting their own regulations. The following is an excerpt from the Order:
BLM has broad authority to manage public lands as it sees fit, as long as it does so within the confines of its statutory mandates and regulatory authority. BLM may readily issue grazing permits under the rules as written; it also may decide not to grant permits in appropriate situations. BLM need not, nor should it, try to support its decisions with misstatements of law.
Judge Lodge's Order refutes BLM's false claim that it had no choice but to authorize livestock grazing on these allotments. The Order makes clear that BLM is not obliged to authorize livestock grazing on any allotment even if the Resource Management Plan for the area designates the allotment as available for livestock grazing.
Here is the WWP News Release of January 7, 2011:
Hailey, ID — In response to a lawsuit brought by Western Watersheds Project, on January 5, 2011 U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge vacated several Bureau of Land Management grazing decisions which would have renewed grazing permits for four public land grazing allotments on over 48,000 acres of public land within the Pahsimeroi River Watershed.
"The court's decision is a welcome repudiation of BLM's violations of the law." said Jon Marvel, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project.
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In its decision, the court sided with each of Western Watersheds Project's claims that BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to adequately consider the environmental impacts of livestock grazing, by not considering an "eminently reasonable" alternative that would significantly reduce or stop livestock grazing on the allotments, and by ignoring cumulative impacts of livestock grazing in the context of past and future agency actions affecting the environment.
"This decision makes clear that BLM managers have chosen to ignore livestock grazing impacts to the environment" said Katie Fite, Western Watersheds Project's Biodiversity Director, "The court's decision will further the protection of Bull trout and sage grouse in the breathtakingly beautiful public lands of the Pahsimeroi Valley."
This decision from the U.S. District Court follows another succesful Western Watersheds Project court decision remanding BLM's attempt to build fencing within a Wilderness Study Area on July 30, 2010 on the Burnt Creek Allotment within the Pahsimeroi River Watershed. Western Watersheds Project has additional ongoing litigation to protect endangered Chinook salmon, Steelhead trout and Bull trout in the Pahsimeroi Valley.
This important court victory will influence BLM and Forest Service grazing decisions across the west.
Banner: East Fork of Pashimeroi River Watershed © Katie Fite, WWP
Rock Creek Allotment, Pahsimeroi Valley © Katie Fite, WWP
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Cattle damaging public lands in the Pahsimeroi Valley