Friday, February 26, 2016

Enviros sue to force changes to federal sage grouse plans

A coalition of environmental groups has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's sweeping greater sage grouse conservation plans across the West, claiming they are riddled with loopholes, scientific flaws and "political compromises" and won't protect the bird or its habitat.
The Interior Department released a statement today defending the plans and pledging to continue implementing them with state and local partners. The lawsuit, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, does not ask the court to throw out the plans that amended 98 federal land-use plans in 10 states to incorporate grouse protections. Instead, the four groups are asking in the 107-page complaint that the court remand the plans to the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service to strengthen protections and close loopholes that they say allow livestock grazing, oil and gas drilling, transmission lines and other development through sensitive grouse habitat. "This lawsuit is designed to strengthen sage grouse protections to at least meet minimum requirements needed to maintain or recover populations on key habitats," said Nancy Hilding, president of the Prairie Hills Audubon Society in South Dakota. The state of Utah this month filed a lawsuit claiming that the plans "violate numerous federal laws and regulations" and asked the court to "permanently enjoin" Interior and the Agriculture Department from implementing the plans on BLM and Forest Service lands. The state of Idaho and a collection of Nevada counties and mining companies in the Silver State, as well as the ranching industry in Wyoming, last year filed lawsuits challenging the plans. Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) joined the counties and mining companies in the case. But while those government and industry lawsuits seek to remove the grouse conservation measures entirely, the conservation groups acknowledge that the plans "do improve sage-grouse conservation measures within the affected federal lands." They want BLM and the Forest Service to undertake a "comprehensive and legally valid" supplemental analysis and revise the plans "in order to cure the legal violations and defects found by the Court and to adopt scientifically adequate sage-grouse conservation measures," the complaint says...more

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