On Wednesday, the Oregon ranch company Cahill Ranches sued the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) over the bureau’s decision to eliminate grazing in a pasture in Oregon. The suit argues that the BLM’s decision to close grazing on the land at issue — Sucker Creek pasture of the Rahilly-Gravelly allotment in the BLM Lakeview Resource Area — was arbitrary and capricious.
The complaint asks the court to balance the needs of grazing and the conservation of the sage grouse. The BLM’s 2015 Resource Management Plan Amendments (2015 RMPA) had closed the pasture to grazing. Four years later, the 2019 Resource Management Plan Amendments (2019 RPMA) reopened the pasture. But the complaint argues that because a federal court enjoined the 2019 RMPA, the law reverted to the 2015 RMPA, again prohibiting grazing.
The complaint argues that the 2015 RMPA did not eliminate grazing in order to protect the sage grouse, but it was instead eliminated to conduct a sage-grouse study, which has since concluded.
Cahill Ranches argues that eliminating grazing might actually harm the sage grouse population, since the study found that in areas where juniper was removed, the sage grouse reproduction and survival actually increased. And eliminating grazing would increase the juniper population, harming the sage grouse.
Cahill Ranches claims that after the sage grouse study was completed, it took steps to improve the sage grouse habitat: it removed over 1,200 acres of juniper, as well as implementing sage grouse habitat-improvement projects such as fence removal and water development. Cahill Ranches’ complaint also implies that if it cannot graze the land, Cahill Ranches may not be able to afford to continue its sage grouse habitat-improvement projects.
The Rahilly-Gravelly Allotment is 18,678 acres in the BLM Lakeview Resource Area, and within that, the Sucker Creek pasture constitutes 8,282 acres.
The plaintiffs’ allegations against BLM include violations of the Taylor Grazing Act, as well as the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.
Cahill Ranches is represented by Western Resources Legal Center.