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Judge refuses to block grazing in Eastern Oregon pastures

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge this week denied a temporary restraining order sought by environmental groups that would block grazing in six Eastern Oregon pastures.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon said the plaintiffs haven’t shown that cattle grazing on the pastures will cause irreparable harm to sage grouse or to rangeland research, The Capital Press reported.

He said continued grazing isn’t likely to irreparably harm the ability of environmental plaintiffs to enjoy undisturbed sagebrush grassland, since the pastures have long been grazed and are rested on a rotating basis.

Any hardship suffered by the environmental nonprofits is also “minimal” compared to the harm that a temporary restraining order would cause Cahill Ranches near Adel, Oregon, which relies on an affected pasture to turn out cattle, the judge said.

“Several families’ livelihoods depend on Cahill, which in turn depends on the ability to use public lands for its livestock operations,” said Simon, noting that the public interest also doesn’t weigh in favor of a temporary restraining order.

Six other ranches are seeking to intervene in the case, which was filed against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management by the nonprofits Oregon Natural Desert Association of Bend, the Audubon Society of Portland and Defenders of Wildlife.

Aside from seeking the temporary restraining order, the plaintiffs have requested a broader preliminary injunction against grazing on a total of 13 Oregon pastures.

“There are a lot of other places the cattle can go,” Mac Lacy, attorney for the environmental groups said during oral arguments Monday. “The permittees, we believe, have greatly overstated the harm they may suffer.”

Grazing in the 13 pastures must end to allow for research into its impacts on sage grouse habitat, which has already been delayed to the detriment of that species and the environment, he said.

“Economic harm never outweighs irreparable environmental harm,” Lacy said.

Lacy also noted that the plan to stop grazing was enacted seven years ago, while the ranchers were formally notified two years ago.

According to the Oregon Natural Desert Association, grazing must be prohibited in the 13 pastures to allow for research on the sage grouse under a broader 2015 conservation plan for the species across the West, where its populations have been falling for decades.

These 13 “research natural areas” were originally required under a conservation plan developed during the Obama administration but dropped from a revised version enacted by the Trump administration.

Article Topic Follows: Environment

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The Associated Press


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