For immediate release, September 2, 2021
Media contact: Talasi Brooks, Western Watersheds Project, (520) 623-1878
BOISE, Ida. – The Ninth Circuit today affirmed that Idaho ranchers lost their “grazing preference” when their grazing permit was not renewed for “bad behavior” on the Trout Springs and Hanley FFR allotments. The ruling is important because it makes plain that there is no special right to obtain a new grazing permit that continues after a permit expires and is not renewed by the agency.
“This decision is a victory for the public lands,” said Talasi Brooks, staff attorney with Western Watersheds Project. “The Ninth Circuit’s ruling today should remind ranchers that grazing on the public lands is a privilege, not a right, and that privilege can – and should – be lost if it is abused.”
The Trout Springs and Hanley FFR grazing allotments cover about 30,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in southwestern Idaho. The Trout Springs allotment lies within the ruggedly beautiful Owyhee region of southwestern Idaho, which provides habitat for bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, antelope, peregrine falcon, redband trout, sage-grouse, and hundreds of other species.
The 10-year grazing permit for the allotments was not renewed because of “an extensive record of noncompliance” and “trespass on public land by grazing cattle in excess of approved numbers.” After losing the permit, the permittees tried to transfer the privilege — called a ‘preference’ — to graze on public lands to their daughter. However, as the court affirmed in today’s ruling, the preference – which is simply a priority position for permit renewal – expired with the permit.
“The ranchers were trying to argue that they held a privilege to stand first in line against others to receive a new grazing permit, even though they could not qualify to receive that permit through a longstanding record of violations,” said Brooks. “As the court held, this interpretation is contrary to the Taylor Grazing Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.”