Governor Signs Executive Order Protecting Sage-grouse

EO Sage Grouse signing

Salt Lake City | February 10, 2015

On February 10, 2015, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed an Executive Order to protect the greater sage-grouse. The Order ensures state agencies will conform with the Conservation Plan and make management and policy decisions that “maintain, improve and enhance Greater Sage-Grouse habitat.” The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is determining whether to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

The Public Lands Policy Coordinating Office (PLPCO) is responsible for coordinating with State agencies, whose operations affect the Greater Sage-grouse, to implement Utah’s Conservation Plan. PLPCO, alongside the Division of Wildlife Resources, will reevaluate the Conservation Plan as new science, information, and data emerge regarding the sage-grouse, their habitat and behaviors. The Executive Order also requires State agencies to report to PLPCO “detailing their actions to comply” with the Order.

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Utah Demands Removal of Wild Horses from SITLA Lands

February 4, 2015

Brain Maffly | Salt Lake Tribune

“The state of Utah is asking a federal judge to force the Bureau of Land Management to remove wild horses from state-trust lands, particularly from a big tract in Iron and Beaver counties.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Salt Lake City’s U.S. District Court, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration alleges years of failed management has led to population explosions of the protected animals, even though BLM wranglers scoured the Blawn Wash area last summer, removing every horse they encountered.”

“Meanwhile, state lawmakers emphasized their unhappiness with the situation, introducing a resolution before the Utah Senate that echoes the allegations in the SITLA suit.”

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Lawsuit Filed to Secure Endangered Status for Gunnison Sage Grouse

January 21, 2015

Sage Grouse
Last November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Gunnison sage-grouse as “threatened”. On January 20, 2015, Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit against the USFWS arguing for endangered status for the species and protections that come with it. These groups argue that the best available scientific evidence demonstrates that the Gunnison sage-grouse is “in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range” and must be listed as endangered species.

The complaint points out that the USFWS violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) by failing to consider best available science and give public a notice and opportunity to comment on its decision to list the species as threatened. The groups are asking the court to remand the final rule (listing the bird as threatened) to USFWS for “an adequate finding that complies with all requirements of the ESA and the APA” in the meantime retaining the threatened listing in place.

Gunnison sage-grouse population is about 5,000 found only in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The species are related to the Greater sage-grouse that is at the center of a broader debate that involves 11 western states.

View the entire complaint here

Tenth Circuit: Express or Implicit Dispute of Title Necessary to Trigger Quiet Title Act’s “Disputed Title” Requirement

January 8, 2015

By Susan Hoyt

Byron White U.S. Courthouse

Byron White U.S. Courthouse

The 10th Circuit’s recent decision in Kane County, Utah v. United States, 772 F.3d 1205 (10th Cir. 2014), resolved some issues while obfuscating others.

The Court potentially created a split between the 9th and 10th Circuits when it defined what constitutes “disputed title” for purposes of the Quiet Title Act (QTA). “The Tenth Circuit, as a matter of first impression, evaluated what requirements satisfy the QTA’s “disputed title” requirement. The Tenth Circuit rejected the Ninth Circuit’s “cloud on title” standard and instead held that, to satisfy the QTA’s “disputed title” element, the plaintiff must show that the United States has either expressly disputed title or taken action that implicitly disputes it. Actions that produce ambiguity are not enough to satisfy the disputed title element.

The Tenth Circuit then turned its attention to the district court’s conclusion that Public Water Reserve (PWR) 107 had served to “reserve” two parcels of land across which Swallow Park Road runs from operation of R.S. 2477. The Tenth Circuit analyzed PWR 107, finding that it was intended to provide public access to certain water springs, and noted that it would be “nonsensical” to hold that the provision of public access to the springs expressly excluded the construction of roadways under R.S. 2477 on which the public could access the water springs.”

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