WSGA files Petition for Review against the BLM and Forest Service Sage Grouse Habitat Plans in Wyoming
by Wyoming Stock Growers Association
October 15, 2015
On October 14th the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) filed a Petition for Review in the Federal District Court in Wyoming regarding the recently announced amendments to BLM and Forest Service plans in Wyoming addressing habitat for sage grouse. WSGA is requesting that the Court review the Final Plan Amendments and Environmental Impact Statements for six BLM Field Offices (Casper, Kemmerer, Newcastle, Pinedale, Rawlins and Rock Springs) and three USFS units (Bridger-Teton National Forest, Medicine Bow National Forest and Thunder Basin National Grasslands. The petition asks the Court to find the final agency actions arbitrary, beyond the scope of authority and procedurally defective.
WSGA President Niels Hansen, Rawlins, emphasized the potential impact of these plan amendments on Wyoming's ranching industry. "Our public land grazing permittees and lessees need and deserve stability in their operations. The arbitrary natures of the grazing prescriptions in these plan amendments and the uncertainty that will accompany their implementation will influence rancher's management decisions in ways that can prove detrimental to both livestock and sage grouse."
WSGA had previously provided comments on the draft plans and had filed a formal protest to the proposed Plan Amendments and final EIS. The Associationís concerns centered on the planís failure to fully adopt provisions relating to livestock grazing found in the Wyoming Governorís Executive Order on Sage Grouse. Specific issues cited in the protest included failure to distinguish "Improper Grazing", the definition of "Disruptive Activity" and the treatment of voluntary grazing permit relinquishments.
"Our objections were summarily dismissed by the agencies", noted WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. However, Magagna recognized several significant improvements to the draft documents as a result of efforts of the Wyoming Governorís Office and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. "With a few significant exceptions, the BLM final plans are consistent with the Executive Order regarding grazing. The Forest Service Plans do not give this same deference to the stateís efforts." Magagna emphasized that the negative impacts of these changes on Wyoming ranchers will not only increase they are fully implemented over the next several years.
Regarding WSGAís decision to raise the first legal challenges to the plan amendments, Magagna commented, "Wyoming has been the recognize leader in the sage grouse conservation effort. It is important that our federal land agencies "get it rightí to assure the continued pro-active engagement of the state and its citizens. It is equally important that legal challenges to the plans and their implementation be decided in Wyoming by Wyoming judges. WSGA is pleased that Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), with a strong record of success in natural resource litigation, has agreed to represent us in this case."