Ruling Released in Green Mountain Allotment Case
On April 30, 2013, the Administrative Law Judge responsible for hearing the appeal of three livestock grazing decisions issued by the Lander Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2011 issued his latest ruling. This ruling was not favorable to the family ranches that hold grazing permits in the allotments that comprise what used to be called the Green Mountain Common Allotment located south of Jeffery City.
During a hearing in Lander before an Administrative Law Judge in late February and March, a number of ranchers who hold grazing permits in these allotments had an opportunity to testify about a number of items in the BLM grazing decision. Their testimony conveyed what they felt should be changes to specific items in the BLM decisions that affected their ability to manage their livestock to accomplish certain resource objectives and remain economically viable.
Prior to the recent hearing on the merits of the entire decision, an Administrative Law Judge had ruled in favor of the request of a number of individuals opposed to livestock grazing on federal lands and Western Watershed Projects (WWP) to stop construction of a number of range improvements authorized by the BLM decisions.
At the conclusion of the recent hearing on these appeals on March 20 the state of Wyoming, supported by the BLM and the permittees who had filed an appeal of these decisions, moved to immediately lift the stay order on the construction of a number of new range improvements which would assist the permittees in the management of their livestock.
In his April 30 order, the Administrative Law Judge denied the requests to immediately lift the restriction to construct these new projects. This most recent order conveys his opinion that WWP had met its initial burden of proof and had presented sufficient evidence in support of its position on the issues to warrant a more detailed and deliberate analysis of the evidence.
The order states, “The balance of equities favors continuing the stay on the remaining disputed range improvement projects…” until such time as he issues a final decision on all of the issues under appeal which may, or may not, allow construction of these new projects.
The other issues under appeal include whether or not the Lander BLM has authorized livestock AUMs in excess of the carrying capacity, whether or not the decisions constitute appropriate action that will result in significant progress towards meeting the “Standards For Rangeland Health” issued by Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt in the late 1990s and various practical and economic impact operational aspects raised by the permittees.
We expect a decision from the judge on all of these issues by sometime next fall.