(U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
Crucial conservation efforts need defending in Idaho. Conservative legal interests have sought to strike down the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture’s landmark protections for the greater sage-grouse and its habitat. Those protections—first issued in 2015 land management plans—safeguard the iconic and environmentally critical American bird from expanded drilling, logging and mining in Western States.
The Trump administration attempted to roll back the 2015 plans, but was thwarted in October 2019 after a federal court in a separate Idaho case blocked the administration. The Court called out the attempted rollback as “designed to open more land to oil, gas and mineral extraction as soon as possible…[with] no indication that current Secretary [of the Interior] David Bernhardt is proceeding at any slower pace.”
The Trump administration’s assault on this iconic American bird and its habitat raises concern that the Justice Department won’t defend sage-grouse protection from legal challenges. The Trump administration has unequivocally signaled its interest in decimating protections for the sage-grouse and its habitat on public lands— an area that spanned 67 million acres in the 2015 plans— through other actions including:
Reportedly violating a federal court order preventing DOI from issuing new drilling leases in sage-grouse habitats. Less than a month after the injunction, DOI was still offering leases within the protected lands
Pushing through an agenda that has opened 153.3 million acres of public land and water—primarily in the American West—to exploitative extraction by oil, gas, mineral and logging industry. The sage-grouse’s home is in 11 states, many with oil- and gas-rich land
Staffing DOI with senior officials that are former industry representatives who have pushed to relax sage-grouse protections
On behalf of the National Audubon Society and The Wilderness Society, we filed a motion to intervene in the litigation in Tugaw Ranches v. United States Department of the Interior. In February 2017, the Pacific Legal Foundation—a legal organization opposed to environmental protections—sued DOI on behalf of Tugaw Ranches, arguing that the Congressional Review Act required the 2015 sage-grouse management plan to be transmitted to Congress. We are seeking to join the case to defend the sage-grouse protection plans.