WASHINGTON, March 10, 2016 -- The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association have asked a federal court to stop federal land use management plans that would prohibit grazing on millions of acres of federal lands to provide habitat for the greater sage grouse.
The Public Lands Council, the Idaho Farm Bureau and Idaho Cattle Association also joined in the friend of court brief filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia earlier this week. The brief supports a lawsuit brought by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter challenging revised federal land management plans issued in November by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service for federal lands in Idaho. Other states have brought similar lawsuits challenging the revised plans as applied to federal lands within their borders.
According to the Farm Bureau, BLM and the Forest Service violated key laws directing how the federal government must manage federal lands and the process by which land management plans are promulgated. In a release, AFBF said the revised plans largely ignore the congressional mandate that federal lands be managed for multiple uses. Instead, the Farm Bureau said, “the plans manage millions of acres in Idaho for a single use, and a single species – the greater sage grouse.”
“Sage grouse numbers are up 63 percent over the last two years largely due to local conservation efforts, yet the BLM and the Forest Service are refusing to promote multiple uses of these lands as the law requires,” AFBF General Counsel Ellen Steen said. “Ranchers depend on access to federal lands and the revised land use plans will have a devastating impact on these rural communities.”
The Fish & Wildlife Service decided that listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act was not warranted, claiming that the revised plans would provide sufficient protection to avoid a listing. “While the decision not to list the sage grouse was appropriate, the highly restrictive plans are in many respects more onerous than Endangered Species Act protections,” AFBF said.
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