Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink

Sep 1: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 08-35359. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is the Federal agency charged with overseeing livestock grazing on over 160 million acres of public land in the western United States. Pursuant to the BLM's authority under the Taylor Grazing Act of 1934, the BLM has adopted regulations that implement its grazing management responsibilities. On July 12, 2006, the Secretary of the Interior proposed eighteen amendments to the BLM's grazing regulations. The stated purpose of the proposed amendments was to improve the working relationships with permittees and lessees (i.e. ranchers), to protect the health of rangelands, and to increase the administrative efficiency and effectiveness of the BLM grazing management program.
    Plaintiffs argued that the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to take the required "hard look" at the environmental effects of the revised regulations; failed to consult with the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA); and violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) in promulgating the 2006 Regulations. Shortly after the suit was filed, Public Lands Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation (collectively Intervenors -- two organizations that represent the interests of ranchers in the western states -- intervened on behalf of the BLM to defend the proposed amendments.
    The Appeals Court ruled, "Because we agree with the district court that the BLM violated NEPA and the ESA in adopting the 2006 amendments, we affirm the court's grant of summary judgment to Plaintiffs as to these claims. We also affirm the district court's permanent injunction enjoining the BLM regulations as set forth in the Federal Register of July 12, 2006, amending 43 C.F.R. Part 4100 et seq. Because the district court erred when it failed to consider Plaintiffs' FLPMA claim under the framework and with the deference set forth in Chevron U.S.A., Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-43 (1984), we vacate the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Plaintiffs on this claim and remand it for further consideration."
    Access the complete opinion (click here).

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