Western Watersheds Project files expanded litigation in the Owyhee subsequent to Murphy Fire

Last summer, the Murphy fire burned a huge swatch of the Owyhee country in SW Idaho (and northern Nevada). Ever since the BLM has been under intense pressure to do the wrong things such as graze lands that burned rather than let them recover.

Some of the ranchers here have very high political connections. The BLM can’t stand up to them. Litigtion is needed to uphold the law.




March 3, 2008


Katie Fite, Western Watersheds Project 208-429-1679 (W); 208-871-5738 (C)
Todd Tucci, Advocates For The West 208-342-7024 ext. 202
Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project: 208-788-2290 ext. 11

E-mail: wwp@westernwatersheds.org

Western Watersheds Project Files Expanded Litigation To Stop New Fencing And Close Critical Sage Grouse Habitat To Livestock Grazing On 56 Grazing Allotments In The Jarbidge Field Office Of The BLM

On Monday March 3, 2008 Western Watersheds Project (WWP) filed a series of legal motions in federal district court in Boise, Idaho to reopen and expand litigation against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for taking illegal management actions on hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands in Twin Falls and Owyhee Counties after the 500,000 acre Murphy Complex Fire burned through the area in the summer of 2007.

The court filings seek to reopen WWP’s federal court litigation that was settled by WWP, the BLM and intervenor ranchers in September 2005. The court retained jurisdiction of the Stipulated Settlement Agreement which required the BLM to complete a new Resource Management Plan for the 1.2 million acre Jarbidge Field Office and provided for interim management of 800,000 acres of public lands until the new RMP is completed.

WWP seeks to reopen the settlement after the devastation caused by the Murphy Complex Fire because the BLM has failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) by:

1. Authorizing over 490 miles of reconstructed and new fencing in critical sage grouse habitat.

2. Authorizing increased livestock grazing in remaining unburned sage grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat.

3. Proposing to restore livestock grazing to burned areas before they fully recover.

4. Failing to comply with the Stipulated Settlement Agreement’s protocol for monitoring livestock grazing.

Katie Fite, WWP Biodiversity Director stated: “BLM reported just before the Murphy Complex fire that wildlife populations were already in great jeopardy. Now the fire has taken out the heart of remaining sagebrush habitat. BLM’s response has been to intensify grazing in remaining unburned sagebrush. This can only be seen as a policy of grazing for the purposeful extinction of sage grouse and pygmy rabbits,”

As part of these court filings WWP has also filed a Motion for injunctive relief that asks the federal court:

1. To stop any further fence construction or reconstruction on the Jarbidge Field Office, as authorized by the Murphy Complex Fire Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation Plans; and/or

2. To partially reinstate the injunction set forth in the Court’s Memorandum Opinion and Decision dated August 1, 2005 (Docket No. 123), to prohibit livestock grazing on the twenty (20) Sage Grouse Priority Allotments that were subject to that August 2005 injunction, until BLM has prepared a legally adequate Environmental Impact Statement and issued lawful grazing authorizations for these allotments; and/or

3. To stop the BLM Defendants from authorizing further livestock grazing on the thirty-six (36) Sage Grouse Priority Allotments that were not subject to the August 2005 injunction thereby barring further livestock grazing on these Jarbidge allotments during the remainder of 2008 and future years, until BLM has prepared a legally adequate Environmental Impact Statement and issued lawful grazing authorizations for these allotments.

These injunction requests to the federal court are reasonable in the light of the continued harm that will occur from livestock grazing to sage grouse, pygmy rabbits and all other native wildlife of the sage-steppe unless they are imposed by the court,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, “these lands are grazed by several of the largest ranch operations in the west including Simplot Livestock and Brackett Ranches who persist in trampling our wildlife heritage.”

For copies of the legal filings please visit the WWP web site or contact WWP:



or call 208-788-2290

To Review the BLM’s Analysis of the Management Situation in the Jarbidge Field Office please see this web URL: http://www.blm.gov/id/st/en/prog/planning/jarbidge_resource/Documents.html




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Ralph Maughan