Ranchers Told to Move Cattle From Range That Judge Closed
The Bureau of Land Management is telling ranchers to remove thousands of cattle from nearly a million acres of public land in southern Idaho after a federal judge found that the agency addressed environmental impacts from grazing in a “patchwork-quilt manner.”
“We are working with ranchers to discuss how to implement the judge’s order, which necessitates the removal of the livestock,” Cheryle Zwang, Idaho BLM spokeswoman, said Wednesday. “We don’t know if it’s going to be under appeal, but we are trying to comply with the order.”
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled last week in favor of conservationists who had sued the BLM, arguing that the agency had violated federal regulations when it authorized increased grazing in the Jarbidge Resource Area, an expanse of rangeland southwest of Twin Falls that stretches to the state’s border with Nevada.
Winmill closed about 800,000 acres of the 1.7-million-acre resource area to livestock grazing because, he ruled, the bureau did not adequately weigh the impact to sage grouse habitat in the 28 grazing allotments authorized for use by 11 ranchers or permit holders.
The judge wrote that the bureau’s examination of the impact of increased grazing on just half of the area’s acreage through an “incremental allotment-by-allotment approach” did not provide enough data for the bureau to determine whether more cattle would further deplete the area’s sage grouse population.
“That question cannot be answered because nobody has looked at the big picture here,” Winmill wrote.
He ordered a halt to all livestock grazing on the allotments until the BLM completes a full environmental impact statement on the overall effect of increased Jarbidge grazing on sage grouse habitat and populations.
Lloyd Knight of the Idaho Cattle Assn. said ranchers were scrambling to find ways to feed herds that would normally pasture through summer on the public lands now off-limits.
“Obviously, they are very disappointed by the decision, very frustrated,” Knight said.
But conservationists said the bureau should have more thoroughly analyzed the impact on range conditions and sage grouse before permitting more cattle to graze the range.