Lawsuit Filed Over New BLM Grazing Initiative

As the Bureau of Land Management pilots a new livestock grazing initiative on public lands in six Western states, a conservation group is suing to get the agency to release more information about the program.

Scott Lake, the Idaho director of the nonprofit Western Watersheds Project, says so-called “outcome-based grazing” appears to give private ranchers extensive control over public lands without protections for wildlife or watersheds.

“We filed this [Freedom of Information Act] request in an attempt to just understand more about this program,” Lake said. “And the department’s been completely unresponsive.”

So, last week, Western Watersheds Project sued the Interior Department in U.S. District Court.

The BLM’s website says the initiative, with projects underway in Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, and Oregon, is “designed to provide BLM managers and grazing permit holders greater flexibility in the management of permitted livestock.” 

Lake suspects that means “more flexibility to, say, ignore sage grouse habitat guidelines, to graze year-round instead of for a specific season.”

Neither the BLM nor the Interior Department responded to multiple requests for comment. 

The BLM published a video on outcome-based grazing in April.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.