Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Idaho Court Grazing Decision Adds To Economic Woes, Fails To See Whole Picture

MORELAND, Idaho – In an ongoing effort to eliminate grazing and other uses of public lands, Western Watersheds Project (WWP) challenged 18 Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) prepared by 18 separate Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices in six different Western states. The BLM and stakeholders immediately filed a motion to dismiss parts of the complaint and asked that the case be handled separately in U.S. Courts in each of the affected states, rather than as one large lawsuit. In early May, Judge B. Lynn Winmill, Chief U.S. District Judge, ordered that the motion be granted in part and denied in part in a decision that ultimately unfairly favors the original complaint.

“The judge looked at this as a decision simply about sage grouse and failed to see the whole picture, that this is a range resource and habitat issue,” said Dan Gralian, President of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association. “As ranchers, we work with agencies like the BLM to manage our public lands responsibly. Sweeping attacks and generalizations like this case misuse stakeholders’ time, take our agency folks away from their real jobs of managing the land and wastes taxpayers’ money.”

“You simply can’t paint 25 million acres of the Western United States with the same broad brush as Judge Winmill has in this case,” said John O’Keeffe, Chair of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Public Lands Committee. Making the BLM waste federal resources on paperwork, legal fees and defending their efforts to protect threatened species ultimately does not protect the environment, sage grouse or rangelands.”

Rangeland resource management and associated environmental issues permeate nearly every aspect of life in the West. Various interconnected ecosystems make each area under the lawsuit intrinsically different. Rangelands provide critical wildlife habitat, water resources, oil, gas, mineral reserves, and recreational opportunities. Local economies are closely associated with the use of renewable and nonrenewable natural resources as well as rural and wildland resources for tourists. Individual local ecosystems and resources need to be considered as they were when the BLM developed the different Resource Management Plans that govern the different BLM districts.

“Instead of wasting resources on blanket lawsuits, the Western Legacy Alliance and its members advocate for science-based options for resolving environmental and natural resource management issues and incorporating an interdisciplinary approach to problem solving and conflict resolution,” said John McLain, a resource and rangeland specialist and member of WLA.

By filing complaints against 18 individual plans, WWP has demonstrated their ignorance of the uniqueness and regional diversity inherent to the states and areas in question, something an “environmentalist” organization should be ashamed of. Driven by the absence of balanced and objective information, WWP is furthering rangeland resource conflicts that will ultimately ruin the local economies and way of life inherent to the West.

Livestock production in many of these states relies on maintaining healthy native rangelands. The members of the Western Legacy Alliance believe that true conservation groups, industry and all other interests that use public lands can work together to find sustainable solutions that best meet the needs of people and the environment. Misrepresentation and extremist activity on anyone’s part hinder the progress that has been made and ultimately make it more difficult to preserve the natural, cultural and economic facets of the American West.

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