May 1, 2006
A federal court has refused to dismiss a lawsuit claiming that the
U.S. Forest Service is failing to reverse the decline of the sage
grouse on the Curlew National Grassland.
The U.S. District Court for Idaho has twice declined to reconsider
its ruling that the National Forest Management Act may have been
violated. The court found the Forest Service's Long Range Management
Plan for the Curlew National Grassland was formed under 1982
regulations, and thus is subject to those regulations and not new
regulations that took effect in 2005.
The Forest Service must comply with 1982 regulations regarding the
sage grouse as a management indicator species. Management indicator
species "obligations" cannot be diluted by the new regulations
"without also amending the Long Range Management Plan that relied on
the greater obligations," the court said.
The lawsuit, Idaho Wildlife Federation v. Curlew Valley Horse and
Cattle Association, charges that the management of the grassland
favors domestic livestock grazing at the expense of sage grouse
The suit grew out of a 1999 appeal to the Forest Service by the
National Wildlife Federation and its affiliate, the Idaho Wildlife
Federation, to stop prescribed burns and other planned management
actions in prime sage grouse habitat in the Curley National
Grassland. The Forest Service agreed to postpone burns until a new
management plan for the grassland was approved.
That new management plan is the subject of the lawsuit.