WWP v. Pool

Lower and Upper Lentic Cole Spring

Background

Grazing Regulations in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (GSENM) was established by President Bill Clinton on September 18, 1996. The Presidential Declaration that created GSENM protected existing grazing rights.

Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to affect existing permits or leases for, or levels of, livestock grazing on Federal lands within the monument; existing grazing uses shall continue to be governed by applicable laws and regulations other than this proclamation.

 61 Fed. Regs. 50223, 50225

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages the GSENM. It recognizes that grazing is essential to protecting the health of public lands and providing stability to the western livestock industry dependent on the public rangelands. By working with permit holders, lessees, tribes, and the public, the BLM seeks to maintain the health, diversity, and productivity of our public lands. The BLM uses Rangeland Health Standards to determine land health, as well as providing guidelines for improving the health of public rangelands.

Allotment Management Plans

The Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) directs the BLM to create allotment management plans for the livestock operations on public lands. The BLM consults with the lessees or permittees involved to create an allotment management plan. The plan identifies the allotments that meet or do not meet the rangeland health standards. The BLM monitors each allotment and collects date to evaluate whether an allotment meets the land health standards. It also evaluates how effectively each allotment is managed.

If the rangeland is failing to achieve the standards, federal regulations require the monitoring officer to identify the significant factors contributing to the failure to achieve standards and formulate, propose, and analyze appropriate actions to address the failure.

It is especially important to protect riparian areas in GSENM. Riparian areas are essential green zones close to streams and rivers that provide habitat and water sources for animals and humans. Without these resources, cattle on the public lands could not survive. ~ Stager’s Final Report on Riparian Proper Functioning Condition and Standards for Rangeland Health (January 16, 2014)

State’s Interest

The State of Utah has a sovereign interest in the ownership and management of water resources and wildlife. The State supports using livestock to accelerate progress toward improved rangeland health and reduce the catastrophic fire risk. Through state programs like Utah Partners for Conservation and Development, the Watershed Restoration Initiative, and the Utah Grazing Improvement Program, Utah works with federal agencies to rehabilitate resources and improve grazing practices to benefit watersheds, livestock, and wildlife.

WWP v. Pool

In 2006, the BLM released Rangeland Health Determinations for all grazing allotments in GSENM. For those areas not meeting standards, the BLM made recommendations regarding the appropriate action that could be taken to make progress toward meeting the standards. The Western Watersheds Project (WWP), a non-profit conservation group, filed  a lawsuit to compel the BLM to make the specific proposed grazing management changes recommended in the 2006 Rangeland Health Determination.

Timeline

July 2006 BLM releases the 2006 Rangeland Health Determination; 12 grazing allotments fail to meet standards
July 2006 to present BLM undertakes a variety of management changes intended to make significant progress toward meeting rangeland health standards
July 2012 WWP files WWP v. Pool in federal district court for the District of Columbia to compel the BLM to make proposed grazing management changes recommended in the 2006 Rangeland Health Determination
October 2012 The BLM files its answer defending the actions it took to make significant progress toward meeting rangeland health standards
May 2013 WWP v. Pool is transferred from the district court for the District of Columbia to Utah District Court
August 2013 The State of Utah, Garfield County, and Kane County file a motion to intervene as defendants to support the BLM’s actions toward improving rangeland health since the 2006 determination. Intervention is granted
February 2014 WWP files a motion for summary judgement asking the Court for an order directing the BLM to carry out the appropriate actions recommended in the 2006 Rangeland Health Determination
March 2014 The BLM files a cross motion for summary judgement arguing that it has discretion to implement the actions it finds appropriate to make significant progress toward rangeland health standards and that it has implemented specific actions that resulted in significant progress
March 2014 The State of Utah and counties join the BLM’s cross motion for summary judgment

Current Status

The parties completed the briefing on motion for summary judgment. It is now ready for the Judge to review and rule on.

Summary judgment is a way for either party to avoid full trial if (1) there are no genuine dispute as to any material facts and (2) the moving party is entitled to a judgment in its favor as a matter of law. ~ Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 56 (a).

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