Federal ownership of vast acreage across the West is vulnerable to a constitutional challenge by affected state governments, according to a public lands attorney.
While court rulings until now have supported the federal government’s control over Western public lands, attorney George Wentz said those cases predate the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, which made federal ownership permanent.
An argument could be made that federal ownership of major swaths of 12 Western states effectively deprives them of the same sovereignty as the remaining 38 states, he said.
“Why are we inferior because we chose to live in the West?” Wentz asked growers at the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual convention in New Orleans on Jan. 13.
A coalition of groups is asking Oregon leaders to put a moratorium on large, commercial dairies, claiming inadequate oversight by state regulators and insufficient laws to protect the environment, animal welfare and small farms.
The request comes after the highly publicized breakdown of Lost Valley Farm near Boardman, Ore., which was permitted in March 2017 for up to 30,000 cows, making it the second-largest dairy in Oregon.
A dozen groups are now seeking to halt new or expanded “mega-dairies.” The coalition includes Columbia Riverkeeper, Environment Oregon, Friends of Family Farmers, Friends of the Columbia Gorge, Human Voters Oregon, Oregon Rural Action, WaterWatch of Oregon, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Factory Farm Awareness Coalition and Food & Water Watch.
The Bureau of Land Management is taking applications from Western states to test outcome-based grazing, which enables ranchers to manage according to current conditions rather than rigid permit requirements. BOISE — Mike Courtney may finally get the chance to implement a more common-sense grazing approach to controlling weeds and minimizing the wildfire risk in the Berger Resource Conservation Area.
Courtney, manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Twin Falls District, will apply to include the grazing area south of Buhl in a BLM pilot project, testing a new approach intended to increase flexibility in grazing permits.
Environmentalists have failed to prove that grazing along two rivers in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest unlawfully harmed the threatened bull trout, according to a federal judge.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak has found that the U.S. Forest Service’s grazing authorizations along the Malheur and North Fork Malheur rivers haven’t violated environmental laws.
Papak has recommended dismissing a lawsuit filed against the agency by the Oregon Natural Desert Association and the Center for Biological Diversity.
The U.S. Forest Service acknowledged there isn’t much it can do about a “Rainbow Family” gathering expected to bring thousands of counter-culture types to the Malheur National Forest in Eastern Oregon over the next two weeks.
The organizers don’t have a permit, and the Forest Service’s response to that has angered area residents such as rancher Loren Stout, who lives near the gathering spot and has a federal grazing permit on land adjacent to it.
He said the Forest Service would punish ranchers if they ignored permit requirements and tapped a spring for drinking water like the Rainbow Family has done. Stout said it took him two years to get a National Environmental Policy Act permit to drill an exploratory mining hole.
“People are furious over this,” Stout said. “Not because it’s a friggin’ bunch of hippies, it’s the different standards.”