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Idaho Sage Grouse Lawsuit Dismissed, Federal Judge Says Otter Has No Standing

Sally Jewell, sage grouse
Frankie Barnhill
Boise State Public Radio
In this May 2015 file photo, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell speaks in Boise alongside Idaho Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter (left). Four months later, Otter's office filed suit against Jewell.

A federal district court judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Governor C.L. "Butch" Otter against the Obama administration.

In September 2015, Otter’s office filed suit against the Interior Department, arguing the federal agency illegally imposed land-use restrictions to protect the imperiled sage grouse. Now – a year and a half later – U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the lawsuit.

The state’s lawsuit argued that the feds cut them out of the management and planning process. But in an opinion issued last week, the judge says Otter does not have standing in the case, because no injury has been proven.

In a statement Friday, Gov. Otter expressed his frustration and says the state is considering an appeal. 

"I am extremely disappointed in the ruling from Judge Sullivan in Washington D.C. The State of Idaho was a partner in the development of a collaborative, state-based plan to conserve sage-grouse on federal lands. At the last minute, federal bureaucrats in D.C. pulled the rug out from under us and decided to implement their unilateral 'top-down plan that ignored local input and science. Now, the courts are telling Idaho and other western states that we have no recourse to this top-down approach – either administratively or through the judicial system. We are still weighing our options moving forward, one of which is an appeal of the district court’s decision. I’m also looking forward to working with the new administration that will hopefully recognize the value of state sovereignty and our ability to effectively manage wildlife within our borders." - Statement from Gov. Otter

The dismissal is just another chapter in a long and complicated story over state and federal efforts to save the sage grouse. John Freemuth of the Andrus Center for Public Policy says Otter’s legal team has a lot to consider if they decide to appeal. Freemuth says the incoming Trump administration could alter how the state works with the federal government on sage grouse issues, but it’s too early to say for sure.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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