Rocky Mountain Preservation Organizations Challenge Decision to Allow Grazing and Fences

The Native Ecosystems Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed a complaint in the District of Montana on Monday claiming that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) should not have authorized livestock grazing, wet meadow enclosures, fence construction and other livestock water modifications on public lands. 

The plaintiffs claimed that the BLM breached the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) with its authorizations and analyses relating to livestock water within the Iron Mask Planning Area. The plaintiffs purported that the BLM’s actions authorizing and completing the rangeland projects without an environmental analysis was an illegal decision. 

The area involved in the lawsuit is a 5,566 acre section of land next to the Indian Creek Allotment. The land was set to be developed into a subdivision, but it was purchased by conservation funds to preserve the wildlife and was sold to the BLM. It is within the Elkhorn Wildlife Management Unit, which is an area managed to preserve elk, bighorn sheep, and other wildlife. 

The Native Ecosystems Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies are seeking a declaratory judgment in their favor from the court, injunctive relief, and court fees. In the complaint they purported that “the aesthetic, recreational, scientific, spiritual, and educational interests of Plaintiffs’ members have been and will be adversely affected and irreparably injured if Defendants continue to implement the Project.” 

Both of the plaintiffs are Montana non-profits who work to preserve the Northern Rocky Mountains. They each have members who enjoy the wildlife in the area and purported that the laws allowing the fences and animal grazing areas are negatively impacting their ability to enjoy the area. Additionally, the plaintiffs explained that they used the administrative remedies available to them already, by submitting written comments and objections to the Iron Mask Planning Area project during the administrative review process. 

The plaintiffs, represented by Bechtold Law Firm, asked the court to declare that the 2020 Grazing Decision and the fences violated the NEPA and order the BLM to remove fences, riparian exclosures, and other water developments within the area.