Stock Growers Association Sues Feds Over Land Use Plans In Sage Grouse Habitat
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association has sued federal agencies that allegedly ignored its comments for land use plans in areas with sage grouse habitat, its executive vice president said Wednesday.
"The way these changes are proposed, they leave a tremendous amount of uncertainty," Jim Magagna said.
"Our view is the grazing regulations and requirements that we already have with the BLM (U.S. Bureau of Land Management) of meeting range land health standards are adequate and beneficial to the range land and therefore to sage grouse habitat," Magagna said. "We've not been convinced that we need additional requirements on top of those."
The Stock Growers is not disagreeing with the U.S. Department of Interior's decision in Sept. 22 to not list the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act, he said. Wyoming is home to the largest sage grouse population. The state had worked with agricultural, extractive, environmental and other interest groups to avoid an economically damaging listing.
But some of the new rules implemented last month in sage grouse areas in federal lands in Wyoming make little sense, Magagna said.
For example, a new plan requires grass and forb (flowering plant) stubble to be 7 inches or taller in some grazing areas, he said. But some grasses don't grow that tall.
The Stock Growers Association filed the petition in U.S. District Court on Wednesday through the Lakewood, Colo.-based Mountain States Legal Foundation. It names as defendants the U.S. Department of Interior, the BLM, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, and related agencies and officials.
The Association wants the federal court to declare the agencies illegally implemented the new land use plans arbitrarily and capriciously; they acted contrary to the Constitution; they exceeded their authority; and they did so without following proper procedure. It says the BLM and Forest Service violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Forest Management Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and other laws.
The Association wants the court to set aside the agencies' actions and to grant an injunction blocking their implementation.
Magagna said the Stock Growers Association wanted to file this petition because of Wyoming's leadership in sage grouse issues and because a Wyoming federal judge would hear the case.