Gov. Brad Little, the state of Idaho and the Legislature have filed a motion to intervene in a federal lawsuit to support the Bureau of Land Management and its amendments to sage grouse management plans.
The amendments to the Obama-era management plans for sage grouse habitat in the West were approved in March. That action was quickly followed by a lawsuit filed by Western Watersheds Project and three other environmental groups.
On April 19, those groups filed a motion for an injunction to block implementation of the amended plans.
“Injunctive relief is necessary here to preserve the status quos and prevent irreparable injury, by maintaining the 2015 sage grouse plans in effect while plaintiffs’ challenge to the 2019 BLM plan amendments are adjudicated,” the motion for a preliminary injunction states.
BLM is moving rapidly under the amended plans to authorize oil and gas leasing and development, mining, rights-of-way, livestock grazing and other actions that will further destroy, degrade and fragment sage grouse habitats and populations, the plaintiffs claim.
Idaho’s motion to intervene in the lawsuit voices the state’s support for the amended resource management plans.
The lawsuit “substantially impacts Idaho’s interest in protecting the integrity of sage grouse management provisions crafted cooperatively with the federal defendants and a diverse set of stakeholders, including conservation groups,” the motion states.
“Challenging Idaho’s collaborative plan for sage grouse recovery is short-sighted and discourages states and stakeholders from working together to develop these types of plans in the future,” Little said in a press release.
Idaho devoted significant time and resources working with federal agencies to develop a locally tailored plan that protects and enhances sage grouse habitat in the state while maintaining predictable levels of land use, the governor’s office stated.
“It is unfortunate that we are in the position of defending a plan that was so broadly supported across Idaho,” Scott Bedke, the speaker of the House, said.
In finalizing the amendments, BLM stated they came at the request of western governors to better meet the needs of their states and align federal conservation with state initiatives.
The issue has its roots in sweeping changes in how BLM would develop resource management plans under the agency’s Planning 2.0 rule finalized in December 2016 on Obama’s way out of office.
Opponents contended the rule shifted planning away from states and other stakeholders to bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. They said it changed BLM’s mandate to manage for multiple use and sustained yield and eliminated requirements for economic analysis.
Both the U.S. House and Senate voted to repeal the rule in early 2017. President Donald Trump signed the resolution repealing the rule and returned BLM’s focus to managing public lands for multiple use in cooperation with states and local communities.
BLM said the amendments were the result of months of collaboration with state governments in Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado and California.
In addition to Western Watersheds Project, plaintiffs include the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians and Prairie Hills Audubon Society. The groups are represented in the lawsuit by Advocates for the West.