A lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court by the Western Watersheds Project claims the Interior Department is unlawfully withholding information from the public about a grazing initiative announced in 2017. The suit alleges the grazing program in six western states could be harming habitat and endangered species.
“This is the latest example of the (Trump) administration favoring industrial agriculture over conservation, biodiversity, and wildlife,” said Scott Lake, Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project.
The group is asking a federal judge to force the government to release information about the program in Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Western Watersheds Project said the program puts private ranchers in charge of grazing on public lands without regard for wildlife such as sage grouse and endangered salmon.
The program, called “Outcome-Based Grazing Authorizations,” is for land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). When announced, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said it would provide grazing permit holders an unprecedented level of flexibility while also protecting public lands.
But the environmental group says the program puts private ranchers in charge of grazing on public lands without regard for wildlife such as struggling sage grouse and endangered salmon.
The BLM says the plan would “emphasize conservation performance, ecological outcomes and cooperative management of public lands that will also provide greater opportunity for an operator to manage ranching operations that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.”