Federal Government Hopes to End Idaho’s Challenge to Sage Grouse Plan

The U.S. government recently asked a federal judge to toss Idaho’s challenge to the Department of Interior’s (“DOI”) measures designed to protect the habitat and support the population of the greater sage grouse.

Idaho has filed suit challenging the DOI’s land-use plan amendments, final environmental impact statement and records of decision. The state alleges that the federal government unlawfully amended 64 land-use plans and improperly withdrew 3.8 million acres of land. On the other hand, the federal agencies, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Forest Service, retort that the challengers lack standing to pursue the lawsuit, as Idaho seeks to invalidate the plans based only on “speculation and generalizations.”

In the federal government’s cross-motion for summary judgment filed March 25, it argues that Idaho fails to demonstrate any cognizable injury caused by the plans. Additionally, it contends that Idaho’s claims are not ripe for review and delaying review until implementation will not cause hardship for Idaho. Rather, the plans will then be subject to review through the appropriate administrative and judicial review procedures. The federal government also notes judicial review at this current stage would inappropriately hurt future agency efforts to implement the plan’s conservation measures.

The federal government isn’t the only one attacking Idaho’s contentions. The Wilderness Society, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation and Earthwork also filed a cross-motion for summary judgment. The organizations argue that BLM initially made an effort to reconcile state and federal plans, thereby lawfully satisfying its duty under the “maximum extent practicable” standard. On the contrary, Idaho has also garnered support from organizations, such as the Public Lands Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation and two other Idaho groups.