Wyoming Associations Ask Idaho Federal Court To Rule In Land Lockup Lawsuit

Wyoming Associations Ask Idaho Federal Court To Rule In Land Lockup Lawsuit

Two Wyoming associations on May 9 urged an Idaho federal district court to grant partial summary judgment in a lawsuit by an environmental group to lock up tens of millions of acres of federal land in six western States.  The Wyoming Stock Growers Association and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming urged the court to rule that two Resource Management Plans (RMPs) issued by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) complied with all federal laws and regulations.  A lawsuit filed by the Western Watersheds Project argues that 16 RMPs prepared by the BLM, as they relate to the greater sage-grouse, are procedurally defective, must be redone, and may not serve as the basis for uses of the federal land involved.  As a result of a court order, "test cases" as to two of the RPMs, the Pinedale (Wyoming) RMP and the Craters of the Moon National Monument (Idaho) RPM will be adjudicated first; they are the basis for the motion for summary judgment. The associations also filed a motion to strike portions of various depositions. 

"Based on the facts before the court, it is clear that the plaintiff lacks standing, its claims are moot or not ripe, and the BLM has complied fully with federal law as to both RMPs," said William Perry Pendley, Esq., of Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF), which represents the associations.

Since 2006, the BLM has issued 16 RMPs, as to tens of millions of acres of purported greater sage-grouse habitat in California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, which set out the permissible uses of the lands and outline the conditions under which each use will be allowed.  Each RMP permits, under certain conditions and with various limitations, extractive uses such as oil and gas development and livestock grazing.

On December 17, 2008, the Western Watersheds Project challenged the RMPs alleging that the BLM had failed to protect various sage-grouse populations.  The group argues that, contrary to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the BLM failed to take a "hard look" at the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of livestock grazing and energy development, as well as the impact on global warming, and failed to consider a reasonable range of alternatives, and, contrary to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), failed to prevent undue degradation of public lands and resources. 

On February 20, 2009, federal lawyers filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to sever and transfer the case, arguing, in part, that the Idaho court may not consider land management actions taken in other States.  That motion was denied on May 7, 2009.  On May 12, 2009, the court granted the motions of the State of Wyoming and of the Wyoming Petroleum Association and Wyoming Stock Growers Association to intervene. 

Mountain States Legal Foundation, founded in 1977, is a nonprofit, public-interest legal foundation dedicated to individual liberty, the right to own and use property, limited and ethical government, and the free enterprise system.  Its offices are in suburban Denver, Colorado.


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