BOISE, Idaho – On Tuesday, Western Watersheds Project filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management in Nevada over its approval of new fences in important sage-grouse habitat on the Argenta allotment. Fences harm sage-grouse in a variety of ways. The decision to build the fences along six sections of streams on public lands was made without full environmental review and independent of pending analyses that will decide whether grazing in those areas can continue at all. The lawsuit alleges that the BLM’s action will bias that forthcoming decision, due by the end of 2017.
The Argenta allotment in the Battle Mountain District is the subject of much controversy already because livestock operators there have resisted the BLM’s drought closures and instead bullied the BLM into considering a slew of proposals for new livestock infrastructure to justify more grazing on the badly degraded public lands. Rather than insist upon needed rest periods, the BLM has caved to rancher demands to allow their herds back onto the parched landscapes and enabled that use by approving the contested fencing.
“New infrastructure is not the answer to fix problems caused by livestock overgrazing. The answer is to take a comprehensive look at the various ways protection could be accomplished without entrenching livestock grazing any further,” said Paul Ruprecht, attorney for Western Watersheds Project. “There are less damaging ways to keep cows out of sensitive areas, including getting rid of the cows. We want to see the BLM explore a range of options when it completes its allotment analysis next year.”
The new fencing is only the first round of range developments, with a “Round Two” proposal for additional fencing already underway. Both suites of infrastructure are designed to enable cattle use of sensitive sage-grouse habitat while avoiding consideration of the cumulative and ongoing impacts to the species from grazing on the allotment as a whole.
“The BLM’s approval of these projects shows that the ‘unprecedented effort’ of the sage-grouse planning process is just a pile of paper written to avoid an Endangered Species Act listing,” said Ken Cole, Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Nothing has changed on the ground, and most of new protections from grazing won’t be implemented for years to come.”