By BEN NEARY , 05.06.09, 10:47 AM EDT
A federal appeals court in Denver has ruled that a group of Wyoming ranchers had no right to formal hearings before the U.S. Bureau of Land Management reduced their livestock grazing under federal permits.
Ranchers with the Smithsfork Grazing Association had sued the BLM and various government officials. The lawsuit challenged the federal agency's 2005 order to reduce grazing on the 91,000-acre Smithsfork Allotment located north and east of Cokeville, in southwestern Wyoming.
A three-judge panel of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on Tuesday upheld a Wyoming judge's earlier decision that ruled against the ranchers.
Several lawyers with the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington represented the BLM. Carol A. Statkus, assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Wyoming also worked on the case. John Powell, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Wyoming, said Tuesday that Statkus had no comment.
Karen Budd-Falen, a Cheyenne lawyer, represented the grazing association. She did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment on the ruling on Tuesday.
Jonathan Ratner, director of the Wyoming office of the Western Watersheds Project in Pinedale, said Tuesday that his group has been following the dispute and is happy with the appeals court's ruling.
Ratner said there have been some improvements on the allotment since the BLM reduced grazing in the area. However, he said grazing is still causing major problems with streams in the area that support Bonneville cutthroat trout, a species that the BLM has listed as sensitive.
Ratner said he expects the issue of reducing grazing on the Smithsfork Allotment will now proceed to a federal hearing process. He said his group will continue to be involved in that.
*These "Western Watershed" (environmental) folk are real good at getting cows off of public land, they absolutly are against private cattle grazing on public lands. The problem with the environmentalists is, they dont much want our wild horses there either, but do they realize that the private cows outnumber the wild horses 200 to 1, and that the horses, when properly managed, are actually good for the eco-system?
Still, I dont think they care much about our wild horses, and that is precisely why we must convince them that free-roaming wild horses on our public lands are an important part of our American Heritage and must be preserved.