Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Delisting Rider Unconstitutional

This is a space where we’ll post the various documents that wolf advocates will be filing in federal district court of their challenge of the recent wolf delisting rider that was attached to the 2011 budget bill.

Different parties raced to file, with Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians in one camp, the Center for Biological Diversity in another having already filed.  Western Watersheds Project has opted to file its own separate case as well.

It is likely that the cases will be consolidated in the Montana District Court.

We’ll post the filings as they become available.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians 

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Center for Biological Diversity

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief

Google Invests $168 Million In Ivanpah Solar Thermal Plant

Project already blading Mojave desert habitat

Google announces its private investment in Brightsource Energy, the proponent of the controversial Ivanpah Solar Thermal Project:

Google Solar Project: Google Invests $168 Million In Mojave Power PlantHuffington Post

The commitment announced Monday is part of the financing that BrightSource Energy needs to build a solar power plant in California’s Mojave Desert.

A BrightSource contractor working on the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating Station in California’s Mojave Desert kills a Mojave yucca (Yucca schidigera) that was likely between 400-800 years old.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cows, What a many Splendored Thing

Click to view in Google Maps

Last week I went out with a co-worker to check out what was going on in the Jarbidge Field Office where Western Watersheds Project has won a court victory that ends corporate ranching on 450,000 acres of public land. When we arrived we found cattle on several of the allotments even though the injunction is in place.

The ranchers are asking the judge to stay the injunction and say that they have met all of the terms of the stipulated settlement agreement (SSA) which has expired. They argue that utilization monitoring has shown that they have not exceeded the terms and conditions of their permits or the SSA and, because of this, sage grouse habitat has improved. Even if they have met the terms and conditions of their permits and the SSA, which I won’t say one way or the other, the BLM’s Analysis of the Management Situation (AMS) notes that the Jarbidge suffered the cumulative loss of 800,000 acres of sagebrush-steppe habitat from 1982 through 2006, such that 46% of the JFO is no longer sage-steppe habitat. This doesn’t even account for the massive fires which have burned since 2007 such as the Murphy Complex of 2007 and the Long Butte Fire in 2010. Sage grouse and other sage steppe dependent species are in dire straits in the Jarbidge and as the WWP press release says:

“Recent data from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game shows that sage-grouse populations in the Jarbidge Field Office are in a free fall, with declines of over 90% since 2006 alone. For example, in the Browns Bench area of the Field Office, total male sage-grouse lek counts are down from 185 in 2006 to 29 in 2010, and some areas are in an even steeper decline.”

Jarbidge FO Pastures.  Click for larger view.

Jarbidge FO Pastures. Click for larger view.

While my biggest concerns lie with the plight of the wildlife there, I also find it startling that the Jarbidge Field Office has essentially turned into a livestock feedlot. Even recreation values have been totally eliminated here. The whole Field Office has been fenced into small pastures with what amounts to a weeping sore in each caused by cattle that congregate at water troughs surrounded by feeding tubs with some kind of molasses slurry, salt blocks, and even oat hay. On top of that is the droning of military jets overhead, some of them containing training pilots from Singapore.

I guess this is what they mean by “multiple use”.  I call it a cowpocalypse.

Arguments Filed Asking Judge Molloy to Consider Wolf Settlement

Earlier we learned why Western Watersheds Project stands firm. Does not join wolf settlement. Now initial briefs have been filed before the Court, with the Settling Parties filing a motion for an indicative ruling, essentially asking the judge whether he would partially stay the August 2010 order vacating and setting aside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2009 Delisting Rule in the states of Idaho and Montana only.

I have attached links to several of the briefs, including Western Watersheds Project’s brief opposing the settlement, below the fold:

Introduction

Pursuant to the Court’s March 21, 2011 Order, Dkt. 193, Western Watersheds Project hereby objects to and opposes the Motion for Indicative Ruling filed jointly by several plaintiffs and defendants (collectively the “Settling Parties”) who attempt to settle the present case and a related case (No. cv-08-14-M-DWM). Dkt. 187.

The Settling Parties seek to strip Western Watersheds Project (“WWP”) and other non-settling plaintiffs of the legal ruling already rendered in their favor by this Court, without intervening or overriding legal authority, without all parties agreeing to the proposed settlement, and without ensuring adequate protection for wolves. The Court already held it improper for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) to base its Northern Rocky Mountain (“NRM”) wolves delisting decision on politics. Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar, 729 F. Supp. 2d 1207, 1228 (D. Mont. 2010)(“Even if the Service’s solution is pragmatic, or even practical, it is at its heart a political solution that does not comply with the ESA.”) Yet the Settling Parties now seek the Court’s blessing for the politically motivated decision to be reinstated, and they provide no basis for the ruling they seek and settlement they propose, other than altered political postures.

Read the rest of this entry »

Western Watersheds Project stands firm. Does not join wolf settlement.

The groups that settled have not gained the assurance of anything-

Today’s announcement that a number of plaintiffs in the wolf delisting case are seeking a settlement with the Department of Interior they hope Judge Molloy will approve does represent a difference in strategy how to proceed in the current political environment.

Three groups, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds and Friends of the Clearwater are standing firm.

Western Watershed’s Executive Director, Jon Marvel, today told me the reasons for the group’s firm stance.

Western Watersheds stresses that this settlement is only with the Department of Interior.  No one, including Senator Jon Tester of Montana, has indicated that in response to the settlement they will withdraw or modify any legislation they have introduced to delist the wolves by law, nor do Secretary of Interior Salazar or President Obama make any promise or even say they oppose such legislation, much less veto it if it passes.

There is nothing in return from this settlement except the promise to keep the scant number of wolves in Utah, Oregon and Washington on the endangered species list.

Western Watersheds believes that having won the case in the first place, the groups should not then ask that the judge approve the violation of the law and his own decision (delisting the NRM wolf by state boundaries).

Read the rest of this entry »

Court Victory Stops Corporate Ranching on 450,000 Acres of Public Land in Southern Idaho

Click to view in Google Maps

On February 28, 2011 Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the United States District Court for Idaho agreed with Western Watersheds Project and reimposed an injunction stopping livestock grazing on 17 grazing allotments covering over 450,000 acres of public land in the Jarbidge Field Office of the Bureau of Land Management in southern Idaho.

The allotments closed under this injunction contain some of the most important remaining habitat for sage grouse, California bighorn sheep, the threatened plant species slickspot peppergrass as well as native redband trout, pygmy rabbits and pronghorn antelope.

March 4 news story added. Federal judge shuts down some Jarbidge grazing allotments. By Laura Lundquist. Magic Valley Times News

Here is Western Watersheds Project’s News Release on this important victory:

Western Watersheds Project Wins A Federal Court Injunction Stopping Livestock Grazing on over 450,000 Acres of Public Land in Southern Idaho

Greater sage grouse, pygmy rabbit and Slickspot peppergrass have won a reprieve from livestock grazing which has decimated their populations and destroyed their habitat. Late yesterday, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the federal District for Idaho held BLM, various Simplot corporate entities, and other corporate ranching operations to the terms of an earlier agreement, and again enjoined livestock grazing on 17 livestock grazing allotments in southern Idaho. Read the rest of this entry »

China Mountain/Browns Bench Wind controversy escalates

“I can assure you there will be a protracted legal fight using all legal means available to stop the project”

Brown's Bench, RES America proposes to put hundreds of giant wind turbines on this southern Idaho landscape © Brian Ertz 2010

Some of the really great things I enjoy about living in the west are the obscure landscapes/mountain ranges.  Unlike national parks, ‘W‘ilderness areas, National Monuments and other landscapes prominently highlighted on any western map, there are many public landscapes less conspicuous, maybe not even labeled on a common roadmap, belonging to all of us that are best known by the locals ~ sportsmen, anglers, ranchers, really hardcore conservationists and recreationists.  Landscapes that harbor habitat and wildlife that exemplify its original nature.

West of 93 on the ID/NV line

These less conspicuous areas are where I learned to hunt and fish with my brothers, places I continue to frequent to hike, botanize and view wildlife with my kids.  Public lands that have served countless generations in such an economically intangible way, uplifting our spirit and serving our truly unique and blessed standard of living.  If you’re reading this, it’s likely you know what I mean.

Increasingly, these places find themselves under threat by new energy technologies which extend the reach of our human ability to extract resources into places otherwise overlooked by industry yesteryear.

In southern Idaho, just west of Highway 93 on the Idaho/Nevada line, Brown’s Bench is just such a place.

Concerned about grouse, groups ask China Mountain developer to reconsider – Opposition Rises as Wind Farm Study Nears – Times-News

One by one, organizations weighing the land against the wind are concluding that more green energy doesn’t outweigh the risk to sage grouse.

Read the rest of this entry »

Spring Valley, Nevada

Lenticular clouds over Spring Valley, NV ~ Fall 2010 Katie Fite, WWP

Where NOT to hastily site an Industrial-scale Wind Energy Project
Just north of Great Basin National Park, east of Ely in Eastern Nevada, lies a public landscape called Spring Valley.

Spring Valley is a miraculous place, renowned for its magnificent skies and as critical habitat for sagebrush obligate species such as sage grouse and pygmy rabbit.

Unfortunately, like so many obscure public places around the west, the innumerable environmental values Spring Valley harbors are under threat, ironically by so-called “green energy” projects.

Read the rest of this entry »

WWP & Wolf Recovery Foundation: “Wildlife Services” slaughter of wolves in Idaho is Unlawful

Advocates for the West‘s Laurie Rule (best known for her esteemed success in the Payette National Forest on behalf of bighorn sheep) has filed another brief on behalf of Western Watersheds Project & The Wolf Recovery Foundation’s lawsuit against Wildlife Services’ wolf control activities in Idaho (complaint & associated filings).

This lawsuit asks the court to stop Wildlife Services from engaging in wolf “control” efforts until the agency fully analyzes its impact to Idaho wolves and a host of other environmental values that it affects.

Plaintiffs’ Response/Reply In Opposition to Defendants’ Cross Motion and in Support of Plaintiffs’ Motion For Summary Judgment

This brief makes three basic arguments with respect to WWP & The Wolf Recovery Foundation’s claim that Wildlife Services’ wolf control program should be shut down in Idaho for failure to comply with NEPA and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA) Act:

  • Wildlife Services has never adequately analyzed a range of alternatives to its existing wolf control activities and their effects, in violation of NEPA
  • Wildlife Services unlawfully relies on “Categorical Exclusions” (from NEPA) for its Wolf Control Actions
  • Wildlife Services failed to consider whether its wolf control actions within or near the SNRA cause “substantial impairment” of SNRA values, including wildlife

Thanks Laurie !!

The Guy Idaho Ranchers Love to Hate

“If we weren’t getting to them, they’d brush us off like a fly. After all, we’re just a little organization with 14 or 15 people, but they act like what we do is the end of the world.”

Jon Marvel sees two ways to get cows and sheep to stop grazing on public lands: Politics and litigation. He chooses the latter.

Dennis Higman does a profile on Jon for NewWest.

Fortunate for all of us who care about western public lands and wildlife, the degree to which ranchers and their politician lap-dogs whine about WWP is in direct proportion to the degree at which the organization is bringing much needed change and restoration to the western public landscape.

The Guy Idaho Ranchers Love to HateNewWest.net

There are two topics you don’t want to bring up with most Idaho ranchers: wolves and Jon Marvel, the white-haired, 63-year-old founder and executive director of the Western Watersheds Project.

Obama: Pygmy Rabbit “not warranted” for ESA protections

Salazar Strikes Again, Denying Meaningful Protection for Imperiled Tiny Bunny of the Sagebrush Sea

Pygmy rabbit

The declining condition of the Sagebrush Sea has been highlighted on a couple of occasions over the past couple of weeks.  In recent Washington state news we learned that jackrabbits in sagebrush habitats are diminishingPygmy rabbits were rejected ESA protections by the Obama administration last week, and earlier last year Dr. Steven Herman remorsefully described his account of the extinction of the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit:

Science is seldom followed in these endangered species “interventions”.  Politics trumps science -and conservation.

We need to remember the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit as an example of a form lost in part to the the insanity of Public Grazing.

The Sagebrush Sea is Dying

Significant threats to sagebrush habitat across the western landscape continue to threaten and diminish a variety of sagebrush obligate species.

Sagebrush habitat is among the most imperiled ecosystems in North America and the rate at which our unique western wildlife and fish communities are declining is truly alarming.

Attempting to bring the most relief in the least amount of time, environmentalists continue to push for Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for a number of umbrella species endemic to sagebrush habitats, including the grand-master of the Sagebrush Sea: the Greater Sage grouse.

Prioritizing these “umbrella” species is important, because when successfully listed, the protections secured these species will blanket entire ecosystems positively affecting the diversity of fish, wildlife, and environmental values which share the explicitly protected individuals’ habitat.  It’s like hitting a plethora of birds with one stone (bad analogy).

Ken Cole (age 11) holds pygmy rabbit

Pygmy Rabbits’ Race to Recovery

So it is with the charismatic, imperiled pygmy rabbit, North America’s tinniest bunny, and the only arboreal rabbit (climbs sagebrush) on Earth !

In 2003, a coalition of conservation groups petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to list pygmy rabbits under the ESA.

In early 2008, the USFWS, responding to legal pressure from conservation groups, finally issued a positive 90-day finding for pygmy rabbits, initiating a more thorough assessment of whether to protect the bunny under the ESA.

The agency dragged its feet again, prompting Western Watersheds Project et al to provide a legal reminder, again, of its court ordered obligation to the bunny …

Unfortunately, just earlier this week Pygmy rabbits were denied Endangered Species Act protections by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Laura Zuckerman, Reuters

“We find there has been some loss and degradation of pygmy rabbit habitat range-wide, but not to the magnitude that constitutes a significant threat to the species,” Bob Williams, supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Nevada, said in a statement.

Read the rest of this entry »

Hearing on bison hazing set for Tuesday

Grazing and slaughter threaten the viability of bison and other sensitive species-

The US Forest Service and the National Park Service are violating the law by not allowing bison the use of public lands. The grazing allotments provide the excuse the Montana Department of Livestock wants for their annual abuse of buffalo inside and outside of Yellowstone National Park.

Keep in mind, this issue has nothing to do with brucellosis, it is about political control of western lands and wildlife and about who gets to use the grass. It has always been about the noble landed elite showing the rest of us who is boss.

In the winter and spring of 2007-2008, the National Park Service “oversaw and carried out the slaughter of approximately 1,434 bison from (Yellowstone National Park), which represented approximately one third of the existing population of wild bison in the (Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem),” the group wrote in their complaint. “Such management, and ongoing commitment of NPS resources, severely restricts wild bison migrations, impacts their natural behaviors, maintains bison populations at artificially low numbers and negatively influences the evolutionary potential of bison as a wildlife species in the ecosystem.”

Hearing over hazing set for Tuesday.
Eve Byron – Helena Independent Record

Wilderness Values Protected on the Pashimeroi River Watershed

Western Watersheds Project wins a great legal victory for wilderness and endangered fish.

~ Jon Marvel
Jon Marvel
Friends,

On July 30th, 2010 Idaho Chief District Judge B. Lynn Winmill issued an Order in Western Watersheds Project‘s favor overturning a Bureau of Land Management decision to build fencing within the Burnt Creek Wilderness Study Area (WSA) on the Burnt Creek Allotment in central Idaho’s Pahsimeroi River Watershed. Read the rest of this entry »

Grousing at windmills

Vodpod videos no longer available.
Grousing at windmills | Need to Know | PBS

Judge Halts BLM’s Attempt to Revoke Valley Sun’s Grazing Permit for Lack of Use

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.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Western Watersheds Project fights for fish, wildlife, and fiscal responsibility

Western Watersheds Project - Working to Protect and Restore Western Watersheds and Wildlife
Online Messenger #177

Western Watersheds Project wins in Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho and Continues our Push For Environmental & Fiscal Responsibility Throughout the West

~ Jon Marvel
Jon Marvel

Friends,

Western Watersheds Project, with the help of many of our allies in the conservation community, has been bringing much needed change to public lands and wildlife management throughout the west.

Recently, WWP’s efforts have resulted in a favorable settlement on a Nevada allotment that served as center-stage of the controversial Calico free-roaming horse roundup, an extended closure of cattle grazing on key fish and wildlife habitat on the Payette National Forest in Idaho, and protections for hundreds of miles of fish habitat on the Malheur National Forest in Oregon.

Also, WWP continues our push to insist that the federal government address the massive budget shortfall with its destructive public land grazing program in the west.

Payette National Forest Closure of Cattle Allotment in Key Wildlife Area

The Rapid River area near Riggins, Idaho provides some of the most important spawning waters in Idaho for chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, all fish listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.  This area also has critical winter habitat for mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep, and is also home to the rare mountain quail.  With its scenic backdrop of the Seven Devils Mountains and plentiful wildlife, the Rapid River also provides outstanding recreation and hunting.

A large cattle allotment of over 21,000 acres is located in the Payette and Nez Perce National Forests, the Fall Creek/Whitebird Allotment.  The Rapid River forms this allotment’s western boundary.  The Forest Service has documented ongoing degradation from livestock grazing, including to the springs and headwaters in this allotment, as well as problems with invasive weeds and unmaintained improvements.  Despite these documented problems, in 2009, the Payette National Forest New Meadows District Ranger approved continued livestock grazing, which WWP successfully appealed to Payette Forest Supervisor Suzanne Rainville.

The Payette National Forest has agreed with the permittee to a voluntary closure to cattle grazing on the Fall Creek/Whitebird Allotment for resource protection for at least 7 years.  WWP is pleased that the Payette and the permittee reached this voluntary agreement, which will remove livestock from these outstanding public lands, and promote improved habitat for fish and wildlife.

WWP and Partners Challenge Destructive Public Lands Grazing Subsidy

Today, Western Watersheds Project and partners Center for Biological Diversity, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Oregon Natural Desert Association, and Wildearth Guardians sued the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to compel them to respond to a 2005 rulemaking petition that seeks to increase the fee for livestock grazing across 258 million acres of federal public land.

Read the News Release

Read the Complaintpdf

Read the Grazing Fee Petitionpdf

WWP and Partners Win Protection for Steelhead trout on the Malheur National Forest

Western Watersheds Project, along with our partners at the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and the Center for Biological Diversity, have won litigation against the Malheur National Forest in Oregon in regard to livestock grazing on hundreds of miles of streams designated as critical habitat for Endangered Species Act listed ocean-run steelhead trout.

WWP was well represented in this litigation by Dave Becker and Mac Lacy of ONDA with help from Kristin Ruether of Advocates for the West.

Read the News Release

Read the Decisionpdf

Jon Marvel
Executive Director

Banner: Black Rock Area in Soldier Meadows, Nevada © Katie Fite, WWP 2010

Bighead CloverBig-head clover (Trifolium macrocephalum) © Katie Fite, WWP 2010

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WWP Nows Accepts Paypal Donations

Photos: Thanks to Katie Fite and Don & Joyce Clarke !

WWP Wins Favorable Settlement of Soldier Meadows Allotment, NW Nevada

The Soldier Meadows Allotment contains Bureau of Land Management public lands enjoyed by wildflower, wildlife, wilderness and free-roaming horse enthusiasts.

Livestock use of this public land allotment is largely responsible for the controversial ‘Calico Rounduppdf of free-roaming horses.

WWP is pleased to bring this victory to recreationists and non-consumptive users of all stripes, whose interests in these magnificent public lands are commonly diminished by public land ranching.

WWP was ably represented by Advocates for The West‘s attorney, Todd Tucci.

Read the Settlement Agreementpdf

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