Tuesday, October 09, 2012

BLM Owes No Fees In Grazing Permit Suit

An environmental group cannot collect attorneys' fees in a sprawling dispute over Idaho wildlife habitat and grazing lands destroyed by a fire, the 9th Circuit ruled Tuesday. Back in 2004, Western Watershed Projects convinced U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill that the Bureau of Land Management had violated federal law by renewing grazing permits in Southern Idaho's 1.7 million-acre Jarbidge Resource Area. The group said such plans failed to properly protect the habitat of the pygmy rabbit and sage grouse, but it reached a settlement that should have ended the case, attorneys' fees and all, in 2006. While the settlement agreement was still pending in 2007, the Murphy Complex Fire swept through the area and burned more than 400,000 acres, much of it the disputed rangeland and habitat. Western Watershed intervened afterward when the bureau began issuing grazing permits for some of the unburned land. Judge Winmill ultimately agreed that the agency was still neglecting the pygmy rabbit and sage grouse, but refused to grant a formal injunction after finding that it would act in good faith to reduce grazing on the unburned lands. Western Watershed then sought for attorneys' fees as the prevailing party in the post-fire litigation, but the District Court in Boise rejected the motion...more

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