Nevada judge denies counties’ bid for sage grouse injunction

9 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Judge Denies Request for Preliminary Injunction in Sage Grouse Lawsuit.

A federal judge in Nevada refused Tuesday to temporarily block new U.S. rules intended to protect the greater sage grouse, leaving the land use planning amendments intact at least until a trial expected to begin early next year. District Judge Miranda Du denied today a request by nine Nevada counties, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and two mineral exploration firms for a preliminary injunction against two federal agencies and their rules designed to protect sage-grouse. The counties and mineral companies presented a lengthy list of concerns in late November as part of its case against the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Brain Sandoval — claims the restrictions on development were adopted illegally and would threaten the survival of miners, ranchers and rural economies across much of the West. Among them were areas of land declared by the agencies as sage-grouse habitat, lands that included landfills in two counties, as well as parcels in Washoe County that critics said did not have sage grouse anywhere near them.

Du responded that “even accepting that the lands identified for disposal by Washoe County and Humboldt County are on BLM’s habitat map, and even assuming that those lands will be withdrawn from disposal, such a withdrawal is nevertheless not immediate. But she said the evidence presented during a hearing in Reno last month, in general, is “too speculative” to meet the “extraordinary” legal standard required for a temporary injunction to halt the policy U.S. wildlife officials say is needed to ensure the hen-sized bird doesn’t go extinct in the 11 western states where it lives in sage grouse habitat. The land disposal process is lengthy, the two Counties have not completed this process, and the planned projects do not have a clear or certain start date in the near future.” Sandoval announced Friday that he had negotiated directly with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, to use Nevada’s sage-grouse habitat maps, not the federal maps considered by critics to be erroneous. “Secretary Jewell committed to use Nevada’s new maps immediately for project-level decisions,” he said. “This assures that projects like Washoe County’s Veterans Cemetery and prospective sites for new schools are now out of the Greater Sage-grouse habitat. “This will allow these projects to proceed under the normal development process. The Department (of Interior) is committed to formally adopt the maps in the most expeditious manner possible.” are yet to be decided … this order addresses Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction (“Motion”), which requests the extraordinary remedy of preliminary injunction to enjoin these agencies from implementing certain restrictions in their plan amendments pending a decision on the merits.

The regulations establish buffer zones as large as 3 miles in diameter around sage grouse “leks,” the traditional breeding grounds for the bird whose numbers have dwindled from 16 million to between 500,000 and 200,000 due in large part to wildfires, mining, livestock grazing and other development. Because Plaintiffs fail to meet their burden of demonstrating a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of the requested preliminary injunction, the Court denies Plaintiffs’ Motion.” The case before Judge Du directly impacts only federal lands in Nevada and eastern California, but also carries ramifications for thousands of square miles of rangeland stretching from Oregon to the Dakotas. They said the opponents are prematurely challenging the amendments, which they argue offer guidelines but no specific decisions on individual grazing mining or other federal permits.

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