Thursday, March 29,
BUSH & NORTONS
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT IGNORING GRAZING AGREEMENT TO PROTECT DESERT
TORTOISE: ENVIRONMENTALISTS ASK COURT TO HOLD BLM IN CONTEMPT FOR FAILURE
TO COMPLY WITH COURT ORDER.
Contact: Daniel Patterson, Desert Ecologist, Center for Biological Diversity
520.623.5252 x 306
Jay Tutchton, Attorney, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund 303.871.6034
Elden Hughes, Chair, Sierra Club California/Nevada Desert Committee 562.941.5306
Dan Meyer, General Counsel, PEER 202.265.7337
More Information: California
Deserts, Goldenstate Biodiversity
Initiative, Contempt Motion
Exactly two months since the court approved a negotiated desert grazing
agreement between the Center for Biological Diversity, Public Employees
for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Sierra Club and the U.S.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the agency still has done nothing to
comply with the consent decree to reduce livestock grazing on public land
to protect the desert tortoise. After repeated failed attempts to get
BLM to comply, the plaintiffs today filed a contempt
motion against BLM with Judge William Alsup in federal court.
The carefully negotiated
California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA) grazing settlement helps implement
the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services 1994 Desert Tortoise Recovery
Plan recommendations for livestock reduction and removal from critical
habitat. Cattle and sheep mow down spring annual plants essential to tortoise
health and reproduction. The hoofed livestock also trample burrows, killing
tortoises inside or wrecking their homes.
tortoise only has four months in which to eat all its going to eat for
the year, and those months are now, said Elden Hughes, a longtime
desert conservation champion with the Sierra Club.
that Bushs Interior Secretary Gale Norton is kow-towing to the livestock
industry by blocking on-the-ground action to reduce harm to the desert
tortoise, said Daniel Patterson, the Centers Desert Ecologist
who formerly worked with BLM in the Mojave desert. We negotiated
in good faith for a reasonable grazing settlement which BLM is ignoring.
He adds, We will not sit back while wildlife suffers as cattle industry
and Bush Administration anti-environmental politics subvert a court ordered
The CDCA settlement
was negotiated to aid desert tortoise recovery by preventing grazing on
285,381 acres of critical and 213,281 acres of essential tortoise habitat
during biologically important spring and fall seasons (March 1-June 15
& Sept. 7-Nov. 7). The agency further agreed to allow no grazing year-round
on an additional 11,079 acres of active allotments. BLM has blatantly
ignored the March 1 deadline it agreed to in December.
BLM admitted in a
March 20 memo to the Center that cattle are illegally grazing sensitive
habitat on at least 504,441 acres across ten public land allotments in
Kern, San Bernardino and Inyo counties where the agency had agreed to
remove cattle to protect wildlife and water quality.
are not currently being monitored for compliance, certainly not for the
lawsuit stipulation since proposed grazing decisions have not yet been
issued. wrote BLM in the March 20 memo to the Center.
In January, the court
carefully considered the objections of the less than ten affected public
lands ranchers before approving the agreement as within the public interest
and rejecting the ranchers objections as overblown.
regulations authorize the agency to remove cattle from the public lands
immediately when public natural resources, such as the desert tortoise,
are threatened with significant harm, said plaintiffs attorney
Jay Tutchton of Earthjustice. It is inexplicable why BLM is refusing
to act in compliance with the courts orders.
If the court finds
the BLM to be in contempt, the court can impose a fine upon the BLM, imprision
agency personel or both to coerce compliance with its lawful orders.
swears faithfully to execute the law, but from the outset she sends signals
of contempt, said Dan Meyer, PEERs General Counsel in Washington
DC. Interior has conceded it is operating illegally; it is now time
to enforce the law.