Posted: Thursday, July 28, 2011 9:00 AM
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
A federal judge has partially lifted an injunction that had blocked cattle grazing on 17 allotments on Bureau of Land Management property in Idaho.
Ranchers will be able to turn cattle out in the Jarbidge Resource Area as long as they follow conditions spelled out in the order:
* Grazing will be governed by plans developed by BLM to preserve populations of sensitive species, habitats and watersheds.
* The BLM will have full authority to prohibit grazing during the sage grouse mating and nesting season in summer, as well as during fall and winter when plant growth ceases.
* Ranchers must ensure cattle don't graze grasses beyond stubble height levels set by the agency.
* Grazing will not be allowed in previously burned areas until restoration objectives are met.
* The BLM will consult with environmental groups and state agencies in developing grazing plans.
* The agency will submit annual reports on the grazing allotments to the court.
Chief U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill in Boise originally halted grazing in the Jarbidge Resource Area in 2005 because he found grazing was responsible for poor rangeland health.
The Western Watersheds Project, which initiated the lawsuit over grazing in the area, reached an agreement with ranchers and the BLM that allowed cattle to be turned out on the allotments.
However, the injunction went back into effect when the deal expired last year.
Winmill said he decided to modify the injunction on July 22 because the BLM needed to use grazing as a tool in preventing rangeland fires.
The agency has also improved its monitoring of the rangeland's ecological health, he said. "A total ban on grazing will interfere with the BLM's efforts, by contributing to a buildup of fuel, preventing pasture rotations, and hampering joint conservation efforts."