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Federal Judge Overturns Craters Management Plan

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Grazing allotments within the Craters of Moon National Monument and Preserve may be under even tighter restriction due to a recent court decision.

A federal judge has overturned two resource management plans used by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. This could potentially force the BLM to redo the planning process within the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho and the Pinedale Field Office in Wyoming.

The Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project filed the lawsuit against the BLM with the intention of overturning 16 such plans in six states. The group argues that the plans do not properly take into account the negative impacts of grazing and oil and gas development on sage grouse habitat.

“This decision is important because it shows that when our government breaks the law, they will be held accountable,” said Jon Marvel, the group’s executive director. “The BLM is guilty of breaking laws across the West and that’s very important to bring forward into the public eye.”

It is still unclear how the BLM will respond to the judge’s decision. As of Friday, BLM officials were still looking over the court decision.

“Right now we’re talking to our solicitors at low and high levels to see what this is saying,” said Holly Hampton, the BLM’s monument manager. “We are nowhere close to deciding if we are going to appeal this decision.”

It would take the BLM two to five years to redo the management plans. Once the process is underway, Western Watersheds would ask the judge to allow temporary mandates that will increase protections for sage grouse, Marvel said.

This week’s decision will have a particular impact on ranchers who allow their livestock to graze in the area.

Currently the BLM has allotted 280,000 acres within the Idaho monument for grazing. In the region, however, ranchers have long worried their grazing rights are on the decline.

In 2009, sheep and cattle ranchers in the area shared concerns about shrinking access to monument lands during debate over a proposed travel management plan.

Longtime public grazing critic Marvel likely sees that trend in a different light. He said he sees the judge’s decision as a sign that the remaining management plans targeted in his suit will also be overturned.

“I think that the other 14 RMPs in this case are highly at risk,” he said.


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