From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 21 - August 17, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

WWP wins partial injunction

by Cat Urbigkit

A federal district court judge decided last Friday to move forward with substantial portions of new grazing regulations released last month by the Bureau of Land Management. 

In Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink, U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued a preliminary injunction blocking only the part of the grazing rules that deal with public participation in the rulemaking. But Judge Winmill upheld all other aspects of the regulations – a victory for public lands ranchers.   

“BLM’s new regulations strike a balance between resource conservation and sustainable public lands ranching,” said Jeff Eisenberg, executive director of the Public Lands Council.  “The Western Watersheds Project fails to recognize the progress that can be made on the land by promulgating these new rules.  It’s unfortunate that they want to waste time with a frivolous lawsuit, but we are pleased that Judge Winmill decided to allow substantial portions of the regulations to be implemented.”

PLC, an organization of public lands ranchers throughout the West, has joined BLM in the lawsuit to help defend the final grazing regulations.  PLC represents the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Sheep Industry and the Association of National Grasslands.

“The United States and the PLC overwhelmingly succeeded at this very early stage of the litigation,” said Eisenberg. “None of the substantive provisions of the regulations were enjoined. These are all in effect.”    

Eisenberg says 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. 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 life in the American West.

“Those who attack grazing fail to recognize the social and environmental benefits ranchers provide to the West,” Eisenberg said. BLM spokesperson Tom Gorey agreed, and said the new rules will produce “long-term benefits for rangeland health.”

WWP celebrated the partial injunction as a success. Winmill stated that WWP “has a strong argument” that the BLM violated federal law by improperly minimizing the detrimental effects of the changes on public input, and failing to contain information from which the court and public could evaluate the limitations on public input contained in the new regulations.

“Moreover, WWP has shown the necessary possibility of irreparable harm,” Winmill wrote. “The public input of groups like WWP will be limited ... and irreparable harm could result from the BLM making decision(s) without the full public input” mandated by federal law.

WWP Executive Director Jon Marvel said in a press release: “This is another victory blocking the Bush Administration’s agenda of privatizing public lands for the benefit of a the very few. Considering the language in this District Court decision, the BLM is at risk if it chooses to implement any of the new grazing regulations.”

In an editorial to Idaho newspapers, Marvel stated: “The recent win in federal district court is one step toward weakening the unfair hold that this minority of public lands users have on the federal government. The American people and public policymakers must realize that the federal government is not legally or morally responsible for supporting an economically marginal group at the expense of everyone else. If it matters, from an economic standpoint, just about any other use of the land would produce a better economic return for local communities at a far less cost.”

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