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Since its creation in 1977, MSLF has been the Nation's leading legal center defending the rights of all Americans to make use of the one-third of the nation that is owned by the federal government. By law, much of the Nation's federal land is available for multiple uses, including recreation, as well as mining, oil and gas development, forestry, ranching, and other activities. MSLF seeks, by its legal efforts, to ensure the continuation of these activities on federal lands and has established a number of vitally important precedents by its litigation.

Western Watershed Project v. Bureau of Land Management

Why We Fight:

Federal agencies, at the behest of environmental groups, may not close national monuments to grazing by western ranchers when the president proclamation creating the monument preserves that lawful use.

Summary:

A national monument designated by President Clinton expressly provided for the continuation of historic livestock grazing on the federal lands in the monument, but the Bureau of Land Management wrongly eliminated grazing on over 90,000 acres in the monument. 

Legal Question:

Whether and to what extent the Bureau of Land Management may eliminate grazing on federal land in a national monument?

Plaintiffs:

Western Watersheds Project and Sierra Club

Defendant:

Bureau of Land Management

Amicus Curiae:

Arizona Cattle Grazers’ Association represented by MSLF.

Court:

U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona

The Bureau of Land Management will complete additional land health evaluations


On January 17, 2001, President Clinton, during the final days of his second term, issued a proclamation creating the Sonoran Desert National Monument, which specifically provided (with emphasis added):

Laws, regulations, and policies followed by the Bureau of Land Management in issuing and administering grazing permits or leases on all lands under its jurisdiction shall continue to apply with regard to the lands in the monument; provided, however, that grazing permits on Federal lands within the monument south of Interstate Highway 8 shall not be renewed at the end of their current term; and provided further, that grazing on Federal lands north of Interstate 8 shall be allowed to continue only to the extent that the Bureau of Land Management determines that grazing is compatible with the paramount purpose of protecting the objects identified in this proclamation.

Prior to the Proclamation, livestock grazing occurred on 252,500 acres of what is now Monument land north of I-8.  On August 26, 2011, the BLM issued a draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) regarding grazing in the Monument.  The BLM allowed a 90-day public comment period on the Draft RMP and then, on June 15, 2012, the BLM issued its Proposed RMP and Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  On September 14, 2012, the BLM issued a Record of Decision (ROD) adopting its proposed RMP, which ended grazing on 95,290 acres of the Monument north of I-8 but continuing grazing on the remaining 157,210 acres of the Monument north of I-8. 

On May 20, 2013, Western Watersheds Project and the Sierra Club filed a complaint in Arizona federal district court, demanding that portions of the RMP allowing grazing be vacated and remanded for further analysis.

On April 16, 2014, the Arizona Cattle Grower’s Association (ACGA), 110-year old association of Arizona cattlemen that since January 1904 has sought orderly, systematic laws protecting livestock and property and that represents more than 2,000 beef cattle producers and industry leaders throughout Arizona, filed a friend of the court brief with the Arizona federal district court.  The ACGA urged the district court to require the BLM to revisit the issue of grazing in the Sonoma Desert National Monument because the BLM did not have sufficient evidence to support its decision to eliminate grazing and to require the BLM to permit grazing to continue while the BLM revisits its decision.

On May 30, 2014, the BLM filed its cross-motion for summary judgment.  On July 21, 2014, the environmental groups filed a response and reply in support of their motion for summary judgment.  On August 15, 2014, the BLM filed a reply in support of its motion for summary judgment.  On February 26, 2015, the Arizona federal district court entered an order remanding the case to the BLM for further review of the grazing section of the Monument RMP.  The ruling allows the Arizona cattlemen to continue to exercise their grazing rights.  On May 18, 2015, the BLM filed a supplemental report providing additional justifications for its decision.  On June 19, 2015, the Western Watersheds Project and the Sierra Club filed a renewed motion for summary judgment arguing that the supplemental report was insufficient and that the BLM needed to conduct further analysis before issuing a new decision and that current grazing should be allowed to continue while the BLM conducts further analysis.  On July 6, 2015, the BLM filed a renewed cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that the evidence in the supplemental report is sufficient to uphold the RMP.  On July 15, 2015, the Western Watersheds Project and the Sierra Club filed a reply brief in support of their renewed motion for summary judgment.

On March 31, 2016, the federal district court issued an order holding that the BLM is required to complete additional land health evaluations to justify the grazing portions of the RMP; however, grazing will continue as stated in the RMP while the BLM completes its evaluation.  The BLM is required to file an annual report each May to update the court and the parties on its progress.  On May 1, 2017, the BLM filed an annual report to update the court and the parties on its progress.

No Status Updates
  • Arizona Cattlemen Preserve Grazing Rights

    Feb 26, 2015
    A 110-year old association of Arizona cattlemen today celebrated a ruling by an Arizona federal district court that allows them to continue to exercise their grazing rights while they seek to demonstrate to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that it should not have closed nearly 100,000 acres of federal land to grazing.
  • Arizona Cattlemen Challenge Grazing Closure

    Apr 16, 2014
    A 110-year old association of Arizona cattlemen today challenged the decision of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to close nearly 100,000 acres of federal land to grazing.


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