Description: Challenge to Forest Service and BLM approvals of revised land use plans for lands located in range of greater sage-grouse.
Western Watersheds Project v. Schneider
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 10/16/2019 Memorandum Decision Download Motion for preliminary injunction granted. Idaho Federal Court Enjoined 2019 Amendments to Sage-Grouse Plans. The federal district court for the District of Idaho granted a motion for a preliminary injunction barring the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) from implementing the 2019 BLM Sage-Grouse Plan Amendments for Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada/Northeastern California, and Oregon. The court directed that a 2015 plan (which is also being challenged in the lawsuit) remain in effect while the court considers the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims, which include claims that the 2019 Plan Amendments failed to evaluate climate change impacts. In granting the preliminary injunction, the court found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claims that the 2019 Plan Amendments contained substantial reductions in protections for the sage grouse (compared to the 2015 Plans) without justification and that the environmental impact statements (EISs) failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act’s requirement that reasonable alternatives be considered; failed to contain a sufficient cumulative impacts analysis; and failed to take the required “hard look” at the environmental consequences. The court also found that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their claim that supplemental draft EISs should have been issued. In addition, the court found a likelihood of irreparable harm due to numerous site-specific applications for drilling and mining projects in sage-grouse habitats that would be subject to the 2019 Plan Amendments and found that the balance of hardships tipped towards the plaintiffs. 10/02/2019 Memorandum Decision Download Motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to sever and transfer denied. 08/30/2019 Complaint Download Second amended complaint filed. 08/16/2019 Memorandum Decision Download Motions to sever and transfer denied. Federal Court Declined to Sever and Transfer Conservation Groups’ Challenges to Sage Grouse Plans. The federal district court for the District of Idaho denied intervenors’ motions to sever and transfer a case challenging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) sage grouse plans for 15 sub-regions in 10 western states. The plaintiffs originally challenged plans issued by the Obama administration and later supplemented their challenges with additional claims, including a failure to evaluate climate change impacts, after BLM revised the plans, allegedly in response to a directive from Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to relax restrictions on oil and gas development in sage grouse habitat. The court was not persuaded by the intervenors’ arguments that local concerns justified severing the case and transferring the challenges to the sage grouse plans for a particular state to the federal court in that state. The court said this argument ignored the complaint’s allegations of “common failings” that “were heavily influenced by directions from the Trump Administration and the Interior Secretary.” The court concluded that severing the case would require duplicative arguments and perhaps lead to conflicting decisions, and that circumstances had not changed since the court rejected a previous motion to sever and transfer. 05/17/2019 Answer Download Answer to first supplemental complaint filed by intervenors Idaho Power Company and Pacificorps. 05/03/2019 Complaint Download First supplemental complaint filed by plaintiffs. 05/02/2019 Memorandum Decision Download Motion to file supplemental complaint granted. 04/24/2019 Memorandum Download Memorandum filed by Utah in support of motion to intervene. 03/27/2019 Brief Download Opening brief filed by plaintiffs in support of motion for leave to file first supplemental complaint. Environmental Groups Sought to Challenge Rollbacks of Sage-Grouse Protections, Asserted Continuing Failure to Consider Climate Change Impacts on Habitat. Environmental groups sought to file a supplemental complaint in their lawsuit challenging federal land use plan amendments adopted in 2015 as part of the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy. In the original complaint, the groups contended that the 2015 plans did not go far enough to ensure sage-grouse conservation, including because federal defendants had failed to consider climate change impacts on sage-grouse habitats and populations. In their proposed supplemental complaint and the brief supporting their motion for leave to file it, the groups asserted that the Trump administration had recently taken final actions to roll back protections included in the 2015 plans and that the administration’s actions would “hasten the sage-grouse’s decline toward extinction.” The supplemental complaint alleged that in rolling back the 2015 plans, the defendants had against failed “to analyze the cumulative and synergistic impacts of climate change on sage-grouse habitats and populations,” which would include “larger and more frequent wildfires and droughts, and invasions of cheatgrass and other non-native vegetation” that “will further reduce and fragment sage-grouse habitats.” 03/27/2019 Complaint Download Proposed first supplemental complaint filed. 03/03/2017 Memorandum Decision Download Motion to sever and transfer denied. 02/25/2016 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Environmental Groups Charged That Forest Service and BLM Failed to Protect Greater Sage-Grouse, Cited Climate Impacts on Habitat. Four environmental organizations filed a complaint in the federal district court for the District of Idaho to challenge approvals by the United States Forest Service and the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) of revised land use plans for lands located in the range of the greater sage-grouse in Idaho and other states. The plaintiffs alleged that the plans did not implement best available science and government experts’ recommendations and would not ensure the greater sage-grouse’s survival, which was threatened by the “synergistic impacts of climate change and human activities” on their habitat. The plaintiffs alleged claims under NEPA, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, and the National Forest Management Act.