From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 20 - August 10, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Ranchers defend grazing regs

by Cat Urbigkit

The Public Lands Council, an organization of public lands ranchers throughout the West, has joined in a lawsuit to help defend the final grazing regulations issued by the Bureau of Land Management. PLC represents the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Sheep Industry and the Association of National Grasslands.                  

“The new regulations stabilize the climate for operating ranches on BLM lands by encouraging good stewardship of those lands,” said PLC Executive Director Jeff Eisenberg in a press release. “In developing these final rules, the BLM has restored the balance between resource conservation and range management. These are policies PLC and its members are willing to protect with their hard-earned dollars.”

Upon publication on July 12, the Western Watersheds Project immediately filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Idaho to block the regulations. A second suit challenging the regulations was filed by the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Idaho Conservation League and the Idaho Wildlife Federation. 

A preliminary injunction hearing was held in federal courtin Idaho on July 28, with anti-grazing advocates hoping to halt the implementation of the regulations, which was set to begin at the end of this week.

WWP’s request for an injunction noted the history of the livestock industry’s attempt to overturn the range reform efforts of the last Democratic administration: “Failing in the courts, the livestock industry is now seeking to gut the Rangeland Reforms through the current regulation revisions; and it is aided in that effort by the Administration’s efforts to pack BLM with livestock industry lobbyists, advocates and permittees.”

The brief filed in the federal court added, “Further, despite the outpouring of critical comments from scientists and the public, BLM never wavered in its determination to give the livestock industry its ‘wish list’ of environmental rollbacks and greater rancher control over public lands management.”

The injunction request concluded, “Unless enjoined, these revised regulations will irreparably harm Western Watersheds and the environment in profound ways, including by gutting the Fundamentals of Rangeland Health, excluding Western Watersheds and other ‘interested publics’ from BLM’s grazing management decisions, and surrendering greater control ofour public lands and resources to ranching permittees.”

In support of its motion for an injunction, WWP filed a sworn declaration of WWP executive director and founder Jon Marvel.

“If the BLM’s proposed grazing regulation revisions are allowed to take effect, the interests of Western Watersheds Project and ourstaff, members and volunteers will be adversely and irreparably injured in many ways,” Marvel attested. “Only an injunction preventing the grazing regulation revisions from going into effect will prevent these irreparable injuries from occurring.

“Likewise, we will be prevented from participating in the communications, planning, negotiations, and other processes by which BLM typically develops grazing management plans and permits, whereas livestock operators will have exclusive access to BLM during this process,” Marvel stated. “Based on my many years of experience with BLM’s grazing management, I can state unequivocally that this will result in BLM’s adopting grazing management decisions that will allow excessive, improper and environmentally destructive livestock grazing to occur.”

Marvel asserted that WWP would be harmed “due to the burdensome requirements necessary for remaining an interested public. He wrote: “Under BLM’s proposed regulation revisions, an interested public must respond in every instance whenever an opportunity to participate arises in order to remain in the interested public list for that allotment. ... Western Watersheds is an interested public on hundreds of allotments across the West and does not have the resources or staff to respond in every instance. I estimate that Western Watersheds receives more than 1,800 proposed grazing actions per year that would require a response in order to maintain ‘interested public status.’ Yet, just because we do not respond, does not mean that Western Watersheds is not interested in, or concerned about, each allotment.”

The lawsuit was assigned to Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, the federal judge that WWP has had great success with in the past.

PLC’s Eisenberg said the American people will benefit from PLC’s efforts to defend the new rules because of the countless ways ranchers work to help protect the land and the environment where they graze livestock. 

“Ranchers fund and maintain range improvements, protect water resources, and install and repair fencing. These enhancements help to sustain wildlife habitat on the open range,” explained Eisenberg. “Ranchers are often the only human presence on the vast federal lands, and they are first to detect new weed infestations and identify areas at risk for wildfires.” 

Public lands ranchers serve as land managers and conservationists of 235-million acres of public land, and also control 107-million acres of private land. Protecting the ranching industry and the rural way of life also protects hundreds of millions of acres of private land from development and fragmentation. This helps to maintain open space, natural habitat and quality of the American West.

“Those who attack grazing fail to recognize the social and environmental benefits ranchers provide to the West,” said Eisenberg. “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.”

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