Court rules against environmentalists in Oregon cattle grazing issue

The 9th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court will not grant a requested injunction that would prohibit livestock owners from allowing their cattle to graze on a 500,000 acre stretch of public land in Oregon, rejecting an environmentalist group's claims that the practice is responsible for spreading disease to a type of bird that inhabits the area. The decision marks a victory for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the land, against the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) after multiple appeals. It is unclear whether the ONDA plans to continue pursuing civil litigation in order to prevent the grazing.

The ONDA had sought a court order blocking cattle grazing in southeast Oregon's Louse Canyon, citing concerns for the welfare of the region's native sage grouse population. The group contended that the number of livestock would create a massive amount of hoof imprints that hold stagnant water and become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and, by association, the West Nile virus. ONDA says that this virus would have a devastating effect on the grouse.

The appeals court conceded that grazing could present some degree of threat to the grouse population, but the risk would be site-specific depending on a number of factors. It refused to issue an injunction, and cited one example in which the presence of livestock was found to have no negative effect on sage grouse; in fact, the court said that some evidence even suggests beneficial effects.

ONDA successfully argued that grazing permits for the area violated environmental law in 2012, as they would have allowed the BLM to erect new water lines and fencing. The judge overturned the recent grazing permits and allowed grazing to continue under 2006 permits. ONDA appealed that ruling stating the old laws were invalid. This appeal was unsuccessful, allowing grazing to continue in the Louse Canyon area while the BLM determines whether the more recent permits could have negative environmental effects.

Appeals litigation can be very complex and usually requires a lot of research and negotiation to result in an outcome that is fair and advantageous for everyone.

Source: Capital Press, "Appeals court refuses bid to block cattle grazing," Mateusz Perkowski, March 22, 2013

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