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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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