Farm Bureau asks court to toss sage grouse land-use regs

By Agri-Pulse staff

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WASHINGTON, June 29, 2016 - The American Farm Bureau Federation and its Utah affiliate are asking a federal court in Utah to toss out a host of what they say are illegal land-use restrictions hampering ranchers in Western states.

AFBF says the groups made the request as part of a motion to intervene on the side of the State of Utah in a lawsuit against the federal government. The litigation challenges federal land management plans imposing restrictions on ranching and other human activities in Utah as part of a larger effort to manage federal lands for species protection rather than for “multiple uses” as required by law.

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The species in question is the greater sage grouse. In papers filed Tuesday, the Farm Bureau groups asked the U.S. Court for the District of Utah to find that the federal government acted illegally when it drew up rules designed to protect the bird's habitat. The complaint alleges that the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service ignored numerous congressional mandates designed to ensure transparency and management of federal lands for multiple uses and sustained yields. The suit cites violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, Federal Land Policy and Management Act, the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

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“Ranchers have long used federal lands for grazing,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said in a news release. “And all that time, ranchers have been at the forefront of protecting forage and water resources so that wildlife and ranching can thrive together. These plans, however, hang ranchers out to dry in the drought. Western ranchers have faced continued threats to their water rights and reductions in their ability to graze livestock on federal lands. We have to intervene now to preserve our ranches and our way of life.”

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