Western Watersheds Project Wins Stays Blocking Implementation of Four BLM Decisions

By Katie Fite, Biodiversity Director of WWP

Western Watersheds & Judges Continue Attack on Welfare Ranchers

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) has received notification that Judge Harvey C. Sweitzer of the Department of Interior Office of Hearings and Appeals granted four Stays halting Bureau of Land Management grazing decisions on 48,000 acres of public land in the Grouse Creek, Meadow Creek, Rock Creek and Trail Creek Allotments in the Pahsimeroi River Watershed of central Idaho. The allotments are located in critical habitat for Greater sage-grouse whose numbers have been declining for many years in central Idaho.

In issuing these now-Stayed grazing decisions, BLM’s Challis Field Office greatly mis-represented the conditions of Greater sage-grouse, pygmy rabbit, and aquatic habitats on the allotments. Instead of curtailing the impacts of existing levels of livestock use of the public lands, BLM sought to maintain the destructive levels of grazing by developing water pipelines, fences and other industrial infrastructure that degrades wildlife habitat, introduces weeds, and otherwise diminishes the natural values on these public lands.

The Stayed Bureau of Land Management grazing decisions for these four allotments followed a previous Western Watersheds Project victory in 2011 in which Judge Edward J. Lodge of the Idaho federal district court agreed with Western Watersheds Project and overturned earlier BLM grazing decisions for the same allotments.

Western Watersheds Project’s campaign to bring better management for watershed health and wildlife habitat in Idaho’s Pahsimeroi River watershed is finally changing many decades of mismanaged livestock grazing thereby protecting wilderness values and wildlife habitat including lands essential for the survival of Greater sage-grouse, Chinook salmon and Bull trout.

Also in the Pahsimeroi River watershed, Western Watersheds Project secured in 2010 another court victory protecting wilderness values on the Burnt Creek Allotment.

Special thanks for this collective effort are due are due Kenneth Cole – WWP’s NEPA Coordinator, Alex Brott – WWP’s Summer Intern from Whitman College, and Jon Marvel – WWP’s Executive Director.

18 comments on “Western Watersheds Project Wins Stays Blocking Implementation of Four BLM Decisions

  1. Wildlife’s demise began when the Mayflower dropped sails. Unfortunately we can neither fall back on the Bible where God gave man dominion over other life forms. Dominion, not destruction! There has to be a way to gain glory, but I do not know law that well, and I am not exactly “Christ Like” either. But, I bet if there were enough wranglers, even those who would pay to be part of a round up…..and enough acreage to place these horses on….traffic might be stopped, but the cameras would be rolling.


  2. Western Watershed’s Project has been able to show that the BLM has repeatedly failed to follow NEPA. BLM has lost these suits because the BLM has not done Environmental Assessments nor are they performing Environmental Impact Statements when necessary before renewing grazing permits. This is also true for mining permits in certain areas. From time to time, someone has commented that the BLM granted a mining permit without doing an EA in an area close to where a wild horse or burro roundup was scheduled to take place. After a few incidents here and there, it starts to add up.

    I have no idea if I am the only one who is starting to think that the only EA’s or EIS’s that the BLM ever tries to fabricate the impression that it has actually done, are the ones to remove our wild horses. Note the article in the New York Times regarding the mining permits in Utah. And what kind of federal agency would put a geothermal energy plant in a state that is a virtual desert?

    The whole reason Karen Budd-Falen and Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis was because they realized how pervasive the BLM’s failure to follow the law has been, and they saw the hand-writing on the wall. Every public lands rancher whose grazing permit has been renewed in violation of NEPA is vulnerable to the same kind of decisions that WWP has won in Idaho. When these attorneys realized that they had little hope of prevailing when the courts were ruling in favor of WWP (after 22 years of litigation going the way ranchers wanted it), they came up with H. R. 1996 the so-called “Government Litigation Savings Act”. This is the bill that would prevent anyone without a direct, personal, financial interest in the outcome of a case from receiving any reimbursement from the government for attorney’s fees should they prevail in their suit. The bill would have been better titled “Please save public lands ranchers from incompetent, corrupt government management that will cost them their grazing permits (and if we can get rid of a few more wild horse herds in the meantime–might as well do it) legislation.”

    The House vote to extend permits from 10 to 20 years was the result of heavy lobbying by John Falen and the PLC. Don’t think Congress wanted to have it pointed out just how badly they have failed to oversee the BLM—which would have been the trump card for these ranchers. Now, Congress caved and gave them exactly what the ranchers wanted like they have. This is a story about how the 99% of Americans who only lose money and are losing the natural resources we love are paying for the wealth of the 1% of ranchers who have accrued generational wealth through the generosity of the American tax payer.

    Representative Mike Simpson, Chairman of Interior Appropriations has practically written a love letter to ranchers and started referring to horse slaughter as Humane Horse Processing. The way these things work, this is just a little language modification that is a prelude to his move either for 2014, 2015, or 2016 when he will sadly sigh, and say he has no choice but to send our wild horses to domestic slaughter where they can be safely and humanely slaughtered by the kindly butchers from Uncle Screwtape* Stenholm’s Vision of Hell.

    We, the Citizens of the United States of America, need to sue Ken Salazar and the US Department of Interior for every last dime the Interior has spent (with the exception of long term holding costs for our wild horses and burros–although there might be a rationale for suing for these expenses, too). There are some people who do not deserve government immunity and need to go to prison as well as forfeit their pensions.

    Ken Salazar needs to give up his pension to pay back the people who have sacrificed theirs in order to sue the government to make the government obey our laws.

    C. S. Lewis, author of The Chronicles of Narnia, and others. Letters from Screwtape is a fictional work about how the devil plots to corrupt innocent souls.


    • Good post. Yes, I am afraid that if Mike Simpson stays as Chairman, he will do everything to send our wild horses to slaughter. He openly blames wild horses for everything including over population on his site which is not true. It’s not only the vile Salazar, but others who need to be sued.


  3. It’s so nice to hear good news for a change and to see justice being done for our wildlife. Thanks to WWP for keeping up on this critical issue and following through. Way To Go!!


  4. Hoofhugs, that name rang a bell. Since I follow so many articles, i noticed something and wondered why a lawyer from Wyoming would be at a Constitutional Sheriffs’ meeting in California:

    Defend Rural America: 8 Sheriff’s that deserve our respect
    November 3, 2011 by ppjg
    This was the Sheriffs’ meeting in November. It was held in Yreka, California. A lawyer from
    Wyoming was there (42:27 on the video) and spoke.
    (42:27 on the video)


    • The sheriffs and especially the well versed lawyer are unnerving. It’s strange that people cheer so their forests will be cut down, their dams are kept while damning the salmon, open mines and pollution, eschew formal education — all in the name of freedom and public safety. They do not trust government be it state or definitely not federal, they fight with the Forest Service and the BLM. They didn’t mention wild horses although it’s simmering under all that no doubt.


  5. This comment was also on the same blog, following the video:
    one phoenix

    Both Karen Budd Falen and her father John Falen have been supportive of Sue Wallis & Dave Duquette’s United Equine Business Association, which is “partnering” with partners who are partnering with INTERNATIONAL RFID companies and in compliance with international laws. This certainly seems like back door NAIS.


  6. OK…I give up. Why do the WWP attorneys (and staffers) get it and our attorneys don’t?….and why don’t our (ALL wild equine advocate litigation) attorneys consult with them and/or use the same strategy with the exception of the First Amendment/access cases?

    Congratulations WWP…again!

    BTW….there aren’t any wild equines left in that part of Idaho anymore, right?


    • We are fighting an entirely different war with the Wild Horse and Burro issue, Denise, whole different set of laws and rules…again, like apples and oranges but we have shared notes.

      I posted this information as Katie is a friend to our cause and anytime anyone wins anything against a corrupt government agency that refuses to listen to the will of the people I consider it a victory for all.


  7. The Sheriff CAN bring in a SWAT team and make the Fed gov. leave, and this has been done. Sheriff’s power trumps Fed power. That’s why you want to elect a Sheriff who has integrity and a respect for the Constitution. Sheriffs can and have been removed.


  8. The question remains on why is the BLM so pro grazing on our public lands to the detriment of all wildlife and vegetation? It can’t be the measly grazing fees which are just a token. I just don’t get it. Are they a wholly owned subsidiary of Big Ag?


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