The American Farm Bureau Federation and Idaho Farm Bureau Federation have asked a federal court to stop federal land use management plans aimed at excluding grazing from millions of acres of federal lands to provide habitat for the greater sage grouse.
The Public Lands Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association and Idaho Cattle Association joined with the Farm Bureau in filing their friend of the court brief in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 8.
The brief lends support to a lawsuit brought by Idaho Governor Butch Otter challenging revised federal land management plans issued in November 2015, 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. The revised plans largely ignore the congressional mandate that federal lands be managed for multiple uses. Instead, 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.