In reply to a lawsuit filed by the state of Nevada, nine counties, three mining companies and a cattle ranch over restrictive land use plans intended to protect greater sage grouse, U.S. Attorney Daniel Bogden appears to be threatening to resurrect the threat of listing the birds under the Endangered Species Act.
Bogden wrote that the Fish and Wildlife Service had “emphasized that its determination that a listing was not warranted was dependent upon the ‘continued implementation of the regulatory mechanisms and conservation efforts …'” including the land use plan initiated when Interior announced the non-listing.
Actually, the FWS reported in the Federal Register that grouse populations have been relatively stable over the past 15 years already.
“Plaintiffs also have failed to demonstrate that they face any immediate irreparable injury,” Bogden wrote in seeking to deny an injunction against further implementing the land use plans, though the counties, miners and ranchers spelled out costs and the potential for the businesses to fail due to the plans.
The day after Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the greater sage grouse would not be listed, but would instead be protected by a voluminous and sweeping land use plan covering 10 Western states, Elko and Eureka counties and two mining companies filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction against the plan.
A hearing had been scheduled on the original lawsuit for the middle of February.
Bogden claims, “An injunction would undo four years of collaboration and could undermine FWS’s finding. The alleged harms to Plaintiffs do not outweigh the interests of the other stakeholders, including the government, in keeping the Plan Amendments fully in place pending the Court’s full consideration of Plaintiffs’ claims on the merits.”
But G0v. Brian Sandoval and others have repeatedly accused the federal land agencies of ignoring their input and stonewalling their appeals. Sandoval in a letter to BLM Director Neil Kornze called responses to the state’s concerns arbitrary an capricious.
In a press release announcing the litigation, Attorney General Adam Laxalt noted that the federal plan bars mineral exploration and development on 3 million acres within Nevada alone and creates restrictions on grazing and public access on more than 16 million acres in the state.