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Grazing privileges on Idaho sage grouse habitat are revoked

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Flickr Creative Commons

A judge vacated a decision that would have allowed domestic sheep to graze public land in southeastern Idaho.

The initial 2021 decision authorized more than 16,000 sheep to graze on Bureau of Land Management Land near Twin Buttes, which is also a winter migration corridor for the sage grouse.

Patrick Kelly heads the Idaho Western Watersheds Project, one of the environmental nonprofits that appealed the first decision. He said the latest move to revoke grazing use will help conservation efforts for the struggling bird.

“We're talking in the area of Twin Buttes, 58% reduction in population just in the last 11 years,” he said, “They're plummeting towards extinction.”

Kelly said the sage grouse is considered an "umbrella species," meaning protecting the birds and their habitat also benefits the many species that depend on the sagebrush ecosystem to survive.

He added livestock grazing on public land should not trump wildlife preservation.

It is part of a much larger pattern across BLM administered lands in the West,” Kelly said. ”Either ignoring or burying information about sage grouse in particular here, because frankly, it's inconvenient for resource extraction, whether that's grazing or oil and gas development.”

In an email, BLM representative Serena Baker said the agency requested the Court return this decision so the Bureau could conduct further analysis of Twin Buttes Allotment application.

“The BLM is committed to transparency and being good stewards of the land, as we fulfill our multiple-use mandate,” she added.

Objections to the latest decision can be filed until Jan. 14.

As the Canyon County reporter, I cover the Latina/o/x communities and agricultural hub of the Treasure Valley. I’m super invested in local journalism and social equity, and very grateful to be working in Idaho.