Federal Judge Edward Lodge slaps BLM on Pahsimeroi grazing allotment decision

Total victory for Western Watersheds Project and Advocates for the West in four grazing allotments-

Idaho’ federal judge Ed Lodge rarely rules in favor of conservation groups, but the defective job the BLM did on these 4 grazing allotments provoked a complete victory for WWP and an strong rebuke to the manager of the BLM’s Challis Field Office, David Rosenkrance. Rosenkrance has been criticized for years for running an incestuous, good old boy operation in this beautiful, if degraded, potentially terrific  wildlife area. Fortunately last week was the end date for Rosenkrance in Idaho.  He has been moved off to the BLM in Colorado.

Judge Lodge ruled that all three of the plaintiff”s claims were valid: that BLM violated the law by not analyzing the impacts to endangered bull trout, by refusing to consider a no- or low- grazing alternative when evaluating the impacts, and by failing to study the cumulative impacts of grazing in the area.

I understand there are similar appeals out there that will succeed because of this decision.

Here is a link to decision at the Advocates for the West web site.

The high Pahsimeroi Mtns from the east (Pahsimeroi Valley). BLM Grouse Creek Allotment. Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Here is an interactive Google Map of the 4 grazing allotments (created by Western Watersheds Project).

Update. An AP story just came out on the decision. Judge rules against BLM on Idaho grazing permits. By Keith Ridler. Jan. 10, 2011 By The Associated Press

8 Responses to “Federal Judge Edward Lodge slaps BLM on Pahsimeroi grazing allotment decision”

  1. Ken Cole Says:

    I think that one of the most significant parts of this ruling is the part about examining a “no action” alternative. For years the BLM has been arguing that a “no action” alternative just means that they renew the same grazing decision that was found in the previous decision from ten years ago. This has never really made sense because renewing a permit is an action. He said “no action means no action”.

  2. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Thanks Ken Cole,

    I think this is a decision that others can use when discussing the revisions of grazing allotments with your local BLM or Forest Service office.

    One alternative needs to be don’t reissue the grazing permits — let there be no grazing.

  3. Ron Kearns Says:

    Congratulations to the AW and WWP.

    From the AW website:

    {Quote:

    “When, as here, BLM disregards the law, it disregards the public interest and undermines its own credibility.”

    End Quote}
    _____________

    Increasingly, the DOI disrespects/disregards NEPA provisions. Fortunately, some conscientious and well-staffed NGOs and legal advocates undertake extensive efforts to reverse the disregard displayed by governmental officials. I lament that managers like Mr. Rosenkrance cannot face substantive personal rebuke; instead, the government allows them to mosey on over to another district or area to wreck more havoc upon another ecosystem.

  4. Tim Bondy Says:

    Read a small article about this same subject this morning and didn’t pay it much attention. The Interactive Google Map links found in this story brings the whole story to life. Who cares about a place called “Pahsimeroi”? I now do because I know where it is.

  5. Tom Page Says:

    Ralph –

    Your caption on the photo is a bit misleading…the Grouse Creek allotment is not the high timbered range in the center of the photo, it’s the barely visible low sage in the foreground. The vast majority of this allotment is extremely dry, flat country with very poor soil that saw over 100 years of unregulated sheep grazing until a recent conversion to cattle. Recovery of this ground will take a long time, if ever, although cheatgrass has not taken over, so there’s some room for long-term optimism. Among other critters, here are several pronghorn bands, countless raptors and jackrabbits, and seasonal sage grouse use on this allotment.

    Note that the decision did not necessarily stop grazing on the allotments; it requires the BLM to go back and re-assess for bull trout, cumulative impacts and the other alternatives before issuing a decision.

    The Pahsimeroi still is terrific wildlife habitat, even in it’s compromised state…MUCH better than the Snake River Plain, which is irretrievably changed (destroyed?) over millions of acres. Here, I see more wildlife from the truck window (or from a high lonesome ridge) than anywhere else in Idaho.

    Full disclosure: Our family ranch is one of three permittees on Grouse Creek, although we did not use our AUMs in 2010 or 2009.

  6. Ralph Maughan Says:

    Tom Page,

    Yes, thank you. I did know that, and I hope to find a more accurate one. Is one with Meadow Creek Gorge in the background accurate? The photos WWP and Advocates are running of the Upper Pahsemeroi and not quite accurate either, are they (except for the Rock Creek Allotment)?

    You deserve a lot of credit for your ranch purchase and efforts to restore the land in the Pahsimeroi.

    Was it you that did not put cattle into Dry Creek last summer? If so, thank you so much. It has been gnawing on me for 30 years how cattle messed things up there on the FS Allotment.

    • Tom Page Says:

      I haven’t looked at the Advocates photos, so I can’t comment on the accuracy. The alluvial fan on Meadow Creek is part of the Grouse Creek allotment, as are the pretty rolling hills just before the USFS boundary. I spent one evening this September watching elk in those hills (and helping a friend try to shoot one…unsuccessfully). The Gorge is on the forest.

      As for the ranch project, we can’t claim credit for much yet, although we have started many balls rolling. This should begin to yield significant results in 2012, if all goes well. On the ground this year we did complete a successful fence removal/riparian protection project in cooperation with USFWS and the Shoshone-Bannock tribes. Our staff and the tribes (mostly the tribal crews) pulled about a dozen miles of nasty interior pasture fence around the mainstem Pahsimeroi, and we replaced it with five miles of removable hotwire along the river corridor. I’m biased, of course, but the difference is pretty amazing. It will be even better if the various conservation entities working in the area can put together a deal to increase summertime flows in the river…

      Yes, that was us that rested Dry Creek BLM allotment this past year, although there was some trespass from familiar characters…We do not have any FS allotments. I surveyed the lower reaches of Long Creek on the BLM with a wildlife biologist friend late this fall and the bunchgrasses looked pretty good. Probably the most encouraging thing I saw was the leader growth on the shrubs. We will likely put some cows into Dry Creek this summer (with a range rider) in an effort to rest other pastures that have more significant sage grouse nesting habitat. Overall, our public land (including state leases) cattle numbers will likely be about the same or slightly less than last year.

  7. James Kjelland Says:

    I have been exploring the upper Pahsimeroi for over 3 decades now, and it just blows my mind the complete disregard for this unique area. Why does the BLM continue to allow grazing up the west, east fork and upper dry creek, Long gulch is rediculous. I have seen cows at the base of most of the east side of the Lost Rivers and trashing the watershed for years. Unreal. Cattle do not belong in this high country, period. J


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