Thursday, November 19, 2015

Judge: Battle to Prove Need to Block US Rules on Sage Grouse

Eight Nevada counties that want a court to block new U.S. protections for the greater sage grouse face an uphill battle to prove such a "drastic" move is necessary across thousands of square miles in the West, a federal judge said Tuesday. U.S. District Judge Miranda Du said she knows the counties and two mining companies have serious concerns about new restrictions on mining, livestock grazing and other development adopted when the federal government decided in September not to list the bird as threatened or endangered. But she questioned whether any alleged delays in approval of proposed development in Washoe, Elko, Eureka, Washoe and White Pine counties were out of the ordinary, or directly related to grouse protection. The groups are suing the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and asking for a temporary injunction to block the proposed rules before a trial. Du said during a hearing with more than eight hours of testimony that the counties are seeking a "drastic remedy." "The burden is pretty high on the plaintiffs," Du said. "My concern is the motion, and the testimony so far, lacks specificity to determine the likelihood of irreparable harm, not the possibility of harm." It wasn't clear how soon the judge would rule on the request for an injunction. Without an emergency order, the case is unlikely to go to trial until next year. Among other things, the lawsuit says the rules would prevent construction of a wind energy project that would bring $500 million to Elko County's economy and has the potential to run mining companies and ranchers out of business. Du said there is "plenty of uncertainty" about the potential effects of the land-use planning amendments that the two agencies adopted to protect the bird found in 11 Western states. But she said she needs evidence of actual projects being halted or delayed to meet the legal threshold that would warrant a temporary injunction. "Without specific information, I am not going to be able to get there," Du said...more

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