ELKO — On Jan. 31, 2012, Administrative Law Judge James H. Heffernan issued a decision in favor of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which allows the BLM Elko District to proceed with the Hubbard Vineyard Allotment grazing permit renewal and spring improvement projects designed to improve riparian condition. The judgment affirmed that the BLM appropriately addressed a range of alternatives as well as potential impacts to sage-grouse, and that BLM’s analysis supported the grazing decision and measures to protect sage-grouse habitat.
The grazing permit renewal focused on livestock grazing management on 112,215 acres of public land intermixed with 12,595 acres of private land within the Hubbard Vineyard Grazing Allotment in eastern Elko County.
The Hubbard Vineyard Allotment Environmental Assessment (EA) and resulting Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) supporting the grazing permit renewal decision concluded that implementing the new grazing system is expected to provide for significant progress towards and/or attainment of the riparian and wildlife habitat standards and objectives throughout the allotment. The EA and draft FONSI were originally completed and posted in January 2010. The EA was revised and re-issued in May 2010 in response to comments and updated information on sage-grouse and bald eagles. The grazing permit renewal decision was issued on January 6, 2011, along with a final EA, and was appealed by Western Watersheds Project (WWP).
Following a full briefing by the parties of the issues on appeal, the judge found that WWP failed to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence and “failed to demonstrate that BLM’s final decision …is not supportable on any rational basis.” The judge also found that the new grazing permit “incorporates significant rest that benefits both upland and riparian resources, includes deferred grazing requirements during the critical growing season and hot season and sage-grouse breeding seasons, and defines reasonable utilization and carrying capacity limitations.”
The EA and all subsequent drafts, appeals and pertinent documents are available at www.on.doi.gov/elkoBLM under Grazing/Hubbard Vineyard Standards and Guidelines Assessment. For more information on the permit renewal, contact Jeff Moore, rangeland management specialist at (775) 753-0359.
“This ruling bolsters the BLM’s efforts to manage for healthy rangelands,” said Bryan Fuell, the Elko District Wells Field Office manager. “Of particular importance are the terms for livestock grazing in sage brush habitat and during the sage-grouse breeding season.”
The BLM is working to address sage-grouse conservation requirements throughout the west. New interim habitat management guidance is being implemented and the BLM and U.S. Forest Service developing environmental analysis and land use plan amendments to provide greater sage-grouse conservation measures in 10 western states.