Capital Press 3/22/13
A federal appeals court has refused to block
grazing on a half-million acres of public land in Oregon,
dismissing environmentalist claims that cattle cause
irreparable harm to sage grouse.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has
held that an injunction against grazing was not warranted in
the Louse Canyon area of southeast Oregon, which is overseen
by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.
Although cattle can pose some threats to the
sage grouse, "the danger is site-specific and depends on a
number of factors," so environmentalists failed to prove an
injunction was necessary, the 9th Circuit said.
"One at least one rangeland, exclusion of
livestock had no effect on the sage grouse population and
some evidence demonstrated potential positive effects from
grazing," the ruling said.
The 9th Circuit specifically rejected as the
claim that puddles from cattle hoofs will serve as breeding
grounds for mosquitoes that can transmit West Nile virus.
The Oregon Natural Desert Association argued
that sage grouse face "clear and inescapable risk of
exposure" to the disease due to grazing, but the 9th Circuit
found the connection between cattle and the virus "too
"An outbreak requires the presence of a
complex set of conditions, but the record did not indicate
that those conditions were likely to be present," the ruling
Last year, ONDA convinced a federal judge
that BLM grazing plans for the area, which called for new
fencing and water pipelines, violated environmental law.
While the judge overturned 2010 grazing
permits for the area, he refused to stop grazing in Louse
Canyon, ruling that the practice could proceed under
previous permits issued in 2006.
ONDA appealed that decision, claiming that
BLM could not revert back to the previous plans and allow
grazing to resume this year. According to the group, the old
permits were no longer valid.
The 9th Circuit has sided with the agency,
finding that the judge's decision to set aside the 2010
permits "had no effect on the 2006 permits." Grazing can
continue while the BLM analyzes the environmental effects of
its newer plans, the ruling said.