Durango Telegraph - Lawsuits swirl around new grazing rules
Lawsuits swirl around new grazing rules

Lawsuits swirl around new grazing rules

A string of lawsuits, not applause, was the first thing to follow Bureau of Land Management Director Kathleen Clarke’s recent announcement of new public lands grazing regulations.

On July 21, Western Watersheds Project, a conservation group based in Idaho, filed a lawsuit seeking to block implementation of the new grazing regulations. The lawsuit charges that the BLM has violated the National Environmental Policy Act by suppressing scientific information from its own staff, other government agencies and the general public. It goes on to allege that the rules violate the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and the Endangered Species Act.

“The BLM has violated our nation’s basic environmental laws by gutting requirements that livestock grazing must meet minimum ecological standards on the public lands and then falsely denying that its doing so,”

said Laird J. Lucas, lead attorney for Western Watersheds.

Lucas added that it appears that the true impacts of grazing are being obscured by the agency and the Bush Administration. “The BLM actually changed the analysis of its own expert scientists without telling anyone, even though they said that weakening controls on grazing will cause long-term harm to fish and wildlife,” he said. “And we are now discovering that the Bush Administration has suppressed similar concerns from other agencies. This lawsuit is intended to force out the truth.”

In response to the lawsuit, the ranching community fired back. The Public Lands Council, an organization of public lands ranchers throughout the West, joined in the lawsuit in defense of the new regulations.

“The new regulations stabilize the climate for operating ranches on BLM lands by encouraging good stew

ardship of those lands,” said Public Lands Council Executive Director Jeff Eisenberg. “In developing these final rules, the BLM has restored the balance between resource conservation and range management.”

Eisenberg added that ranchers deserve credit for their stewardship of millions of acres of public lands. “Those who attack grazing fail to recognize the social and environmental benefits ranchers provide to the West,” he said. “The BLM grazing regulations will help ranchers maintain a stable business climate and stay on the land, while mutually benefiting the environment and the American public.”

A second lawsuit challenging the regulations is also now in the works. It was filed by the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Idaho Conservation League, and the Idaho Wildlife Federation.

– Will Sands