Thursday, March 12, 2009

Cattle grazing allowed to continue, but criticized for endangered species impacts, by federal court in Idaho

Western Watersheds Project v. Dyer

SUMMARY: Western Watersheds Project, an environmental group, brought this lawsuit to ban livestock grazing in certain areas of the Jarbidge Field Office, 1.4 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Western Watersheds Project (WWP) alleges that continued grazing destroys what little habitat remains for imperiled species like the sage grouse, pygmy rabbit, and slickspot peppergrass...

RULING: The Court held ten days of evidentiary hearings, listening to testimony and examining thousands of pages of documents. In these Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, the Court finds (1) that three sensitive species in the JFO--the sage grouse, pygmy rabbit, and slickspot peppergrass--are in serious decline; (2) that livestock grazing is an important factor in that decline; (3) that the current management plan (known as a Resource Management Plan or RMP) governing the JFO is currently being revised by the BLM through the preparation of a comprehensive Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) designed to describe the ecological status of the JFO and identify the environmental impacts of activities, including grazing; (4) that the BLM has committed to preparing new grazing permits across the JFO when the new RMP is completed; (5) that in its 2008 grazing authorizations, the BLM misinterpreted the existing RMP, especially by viewing the RMP's requirements for protection of sensitive species as mere suggestions; (6) that the existing RMP is more protective of sensitive species than it has previously been interpreted by the BLM; (7) that the BLM is directed to correct its interpretation as it considers authorizing grazing for the 2009 grazing season and beyond; (8) that a ban on grazing is not required by law at this point as the Court is confident in the BLM's ability to modify the grazing to be authorized in the 2009 grazing season to accord with the Court's interpretation of the existing RMP; (9) that environmental studies in addition to the ongoing EIS are not required by law at this time; and (10) that the BLM's fencing and closure criteria decisions were consistent with legal requirements.

From the ESA Blawg

No comments: