BOISE — The Department of Interior’s Office of Hearings and Appeals has granted Western Watersheds Project (WWP) a stay of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision to cancel Valley Sun, LLC’s (Valley Sun) grazing permit on public lands along the East Fork and main Salmon Rivers in central Idaho. BLM had attempted to cancel the permit for reasons related to Valley Sun’s failure to graze livestock on the allotments. In granting WWP’s request for a stay of the decision, the court cited the threat of irreparable harm to the environment, including endangered salmon habitat, on the steep public lands at issue should the allotments be subject to livestock grazing.
“The stay vindicates our position that public regulators have a primary legal obligation to protect the public interest, land, wildlife and fisheries habitat.” said Brian Ertz, media director for Western Watersheds Project. “In this case, BLM’s loyalties appear to lie with the industry it’s supposed to be regulating.”
BLM itself has admitted that Valley Sun’s management has recovered and restored the lands for fish and wildlife, which include salmon, steelhead, and big game including deer, elk, and bighorn sheep. When Valley Sun acquired the permits in 2000, BLM documents described over-grazed land in poor condition. Now, BLM admits the lands are in much better condition for wildlife.
“It was very surprising that BLM would take such punitive action against groups trying to recover wildlife habitat,” said attorney Kristin Ruether of Advocates for the West, representing Valley Sun and WWP.
Valley Sun, LLC has rested the 20,000+ acres of public land associated with the permit from livestock grazing for several years in order to recover fisheries and wildlife habitat. The public lands at issue are associated with the Greenfire Preserve, private land along the East Fork Salmon River that serves as conservation group Western Watersheds Project’s headquarters.
The mission of Western Watersheds Project is to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation. Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit conservation group founded in 1993 with field offices in Idaho, Montana, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona and California. WWP is headquartered at the Greenfire Preserve in Clayton, Idaho. The group works to influence and improve public lands management in 8 western states with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250,000,000 acres of western public lands.