BOISE, Idaho — The Bureau of Land Management is restricting grazing on allotments in Owyhee County after a federal judge's ruling in a lawsuit over sage grouse habitat.
The Idaho Statesman reports (http://bit.ly/YClKDN) the ruling in the case between environmental group Western Watersheds Project and the BLM means cutbacks for three of four allotments in the region, reducing the number of cattle that can graze the land and limiting the amount of time the cattle can graze.
The announcement Monday angered ranchers, who said the cuts could put them out of business.
Owyhee County rancher Kelly Aberasturi was so mad at the grazing cutbacks that he had to briefly leave the county courtroom in Murphy where the meeting was being held.
"This really ticks me off," Aberasturi said as he went to cool off.
He returned later as BLM Owyhee field office manager Loretta Chandler explained the cuts, which range from 35 percent to 47 percent in the three allotments.
"What do you expect these people to do?" said Aberasturi, who is also a county commissioner. "This will put them out of business."
BLM's Boise District manager, Jim Fincher, said the agency didn't have a choice if it wants to satisfy U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill.
"We have to make these tough decisions or you will have court-mandated cuts," Fincher said.
Katie Fite, the biodiversity director for Western Watershed Project, said the BLM's cuts didn't go far enough. Anyone who saw the allotments this year would wonder why the agency didn't stop all grazing, she said.
Ranchers have 15 days to protest Monday's decision.
The sage grouse is a chicken-sized bird known for its elaborate mating display, and it's found in Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Utah, Washington, Oregon, eastern California and western Colorado. Winmill has noted in previous rulings that the BLM has designated the sage grouse as a sensitive species, and that when livestock and sage grouse conflict, the livestock must yield.
Information from: Idaho Statesman, http://www.idahostatesman.com