Friday, October 30, 2015

Laxalt takes correct action on sage grouse lawsuit

by Bob Fallon

Attorney General Adam Laxalt has taken exactly the right action in joining, and now leading, the lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of the Interior and other DOI agencies. The details of the lawsuit document the irreparable harm that will come to many Nevada counties and the State of Nevada. 

This is the federal government choosing to implement its agenda through executive action, a consistent policy of the Obama administration. 

Gov. Brian Sandoval recently alleged Laxalt does not represent the State of Nevada, the governor or any state agencies. In reality, the majority of counties (Elko, Eureka, Lander, White Pine, Lincoln, Humboldt, Washoe, Churchill and Pershing) are directly parties to the lawsuit, the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) has worked hard to organize the lawsuit, and Sen. Dean Heller, Congressman Mark Amodei, Congressman Joe Heck, state Sen. James Settelmeyer, state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, Assemblyman Ira Hansen, NACO, the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation and numerous other assemblymen, county commissioners and private groups have issued statements in support of Laxalt’s decision to join the lawsuit. The bottom line on the comments of the family ranchers and miners is that without intervention their family ranches and mining claims are out of business. 

Beyond that, numerous mines and ranching operations were give explicit go-aheads from Federal Agencies for their plans, made big investments, and now unexpectedly face financial Armageddon. Commitments from local DOI agencies can no longer be trusted because they are subject to being unexpectedly overridden from Washington. 

The direction is clearly to use greater sage grouse actions to shut down as much of land in the western states as possible, legal and ethical, or not. We have heard from local BLM personnel who vociferously say it is not them — the orders are from Washington, and they fully expect these actions to lead to litigation. Unless an injunction can be won, the impact will hit Nevada long before a resolution in the courts. 

As an indicator of the ethics and approach being taken by the BLM and other DOE agencies, BLM has denied every single public comment, including many from government agencies like Churchill County, in the sage grouse decision and in several local Resource Management Plans. How can anyone, in good conscience, say that not a single comment of those from more than 600 separate citizens is valid? The message is clear to me — even if in violation of Federal Law the Federal Government is going to ignore all of our input and do exactly as it pleases, and they have as much of our money as they need to defend any lawsuits. 

Nevada’s own sage-grouse conservation plans spearheaded by Sandoval were completely ignored in the recently issued 3,500-page Sage-Grouse LUPA/FEIS, this to the frustration of Sandoval who sent a 12-page response letter. Perhaps it is time for Sandoval to realize that in spite of his best, proactive efforts, the direction from the White House is now to ignore all of those efforts, ignore the requirements of federal laws including the requirement for federal agencies to coordinate their proposals with local plans and policies, and ignore all cooperative efforts by state and local governments. 

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