AR-News: BLM sued over rancher's deal

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Wed Oct 1 18:02:37 EDT 2003

BLM sued over Robbins deal

By BRODIE FARQUHAR Star-Tribune staff writer

Two conservation groups filed a lawsuit last Thursday in U.S. District Court 
in the District of Columbia against top officials of the Bureau of Land 
Management (BLM) -- objecting to a unique settlement in favor of a 
Thermopolis-area rancher.

Western Watersheds Project of Hailey, Idaho and American Lands Alliance of 
Washington, D.C., filed suit last week alleging unlawful actions and 
failures of action by the top leadership of the BLM, "who have overridden 
the scientific and professional judgment of BLM staff in order to favor a 
wealthy and politically powerful rancher, Harvey Frank Robbins, granting him 
grazing privileges and preferences in violation of the nation's laws and 
regulations governing public lands grazing."

The lawsuit is not aimed at Robbins, only his settlement with the BLM and 
the BLM officials who authorized the settlement: allegedly Kathleen Clarke, 
director of the bureau and Francis Cherry, her deputy director. The 
settlement, achieved after years of lawsuits and counter lawsuits between 
Robbins and the BLM, stayed all regulatory action against Robbins, even 
though grazing violations have allegedly continued.

"I understand the BLM is conducting its own internal investigation," said 
Laird Lucas, an attorney for Advocates for the West, a Boise-based, 
nonprofit, conservation law firm. "We're hoping this will prod the BLM into 
a settlement." Lucas and associate Lauren Rule have teamed up with Jonathan 
Lovvorn of Meyer & Glitzenstein in Washington, D.C.

The lawsuit alleges violations of the Federal Land Policy and Management 
Act, Taylor Grazing Act, and the Code of Federal Regulations, but not the 
Endangered Species Act. Lucas said he's investigating biologists' statements 
that grizzly bears inhabit Robbins' ranches and whether a grizzly bear was 
illegally shot and killed. An ESA complaint that BLM did not consult with 
the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over grizzly bears observed on Robbins' 
Owl Creek allotments could be filed separately or added as an amendment.

Lucas said the federal government has 60 days to respond. If the case is 
still ongoing in the spring, Lucas said he may seek injunctive relief. He 
cited BLM records that indicate BLM pastures leased by Robbins have 
experienced moderate to severe degradation due to overgrazing and the 
ongoing drought. "That land really needs a rest," Lucas said.

Celia Boddington, spokeswoman for BLM headquarters, said the lawsuit is 
still under review and the bureau has no comment as yet.

Western Watersheds Project is a nonprofit conservation organization focused 
on protecting and conserving public lands and natural resources of 
watersheds in the West. American Lands Alliance is a nonprofit conservation 
organization that works with grassroots organizations and individuals to 
protect and preserve desert, forest, and aquatic ecosystems.


"The indifference, callousness and contempt that so many peiple exibit 
toward animals is evel first because it results in the great suffering of 
animals, and second because it results in an incalculably great 
impoverishment of the human spirit."
Ashley Montagu

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