Environmental litigation halted
Mountain States Legal Foundation (MSLF) announced on Dec. 28 a legal win for farming and ranching communities. In the case, Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) was attempting to gain power over federally-managed and private lands to influence threatened and endangered species’ recovery plans through endless litigation.
In the case, CBD sought to challenge the recovery plan for grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states as well as ensuring the ability to sue to enforce binding recovery plans.
Recovery plans, however, are designed to be flexible and adjust as circumstances evolve over time, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. Currently, there are six distinct population areas in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials determined grizzly bear populations were recovered under the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations.
According to MSLF, CBD could sue at any point in a species’ recovery process to force a strict plan, practically putting roadblocks in the way of U.S. Fish and Wildlife in declaring any species to be recovered and drawing out the process of species recovery for years on end.
Previously, CBD directly challenged the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage grizzly bear population recovery and succeeded in the case Crow Indian Tribe v. United States, ultimately overturning the rule and convincing a federal judge to order grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem be replaced on the Endangered Species List.
If CBD succeeded in this recent case, many new opportunities to lockup federal and private land through species management could have opened. CBD has long been known for introducing litigation against private property rights. The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana called legal arguments made by CBD “circular and therefore unpersuasive.”
“With the court’s ruling in the District of Montana, ranchers and farmers will continue to be able to aid the federal and state agencies in tailoring their relief efforts where they will be most effective,” said MSLF Attorney Cody J. Wisniewski. “Importantly, recovery plans will not be locked up in the same vicious cycle of unending litigation that occurs with every delisting attempt.”
The potential loss of millions of acres of federally managed grazing lands through this case would have financially devastated many producers.
“In recent years it appears the radical environmental community sees every action by a federal natural resource agency as an invitation to litigation,” said Jim Magagna, executive vice president of WSGA. “This attitude only serves to discourage local collaboration which truly fosters species recovery and protection while maintaining viable ranching operations that provide wildlife habitat while supporting vibrant local communities. WSGA appreciates MSLF’s commitment to representing our interests in this and other challenges to the future of western ranching.”
Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to wylr.net.