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Western Watersheds Project v. Schneider

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20171
Nos. 1:16-cv-83-BLW, (D. Idaho, 10/16/2019) (Winmill, J.)

A district court preliminarily enjoined BLM from implementing its 2019 amendments to plans for oil and gas permitting and licensing on greater sage-grouse habitat in seven states. Environmental groups argued that the six EISs that BLM issued to amend the plans violated NEPA by failing to consider reasonable alternatives or to analyze cumulative impacts. The court found that common sense and the record demonstrated that mid-range alternatives were available that contained more protections for the species than what the EISs proposed, and that the EISs lacked a robust cumulative impacts analysis given the species' range. The groups also argued that the EISs failed to take the required hard look at the environmental consequences of the amendments, which weakened many of the protections FWS relied upon in finding that an ESA listing was not warranted. The court found the groups were likely to prevail on their claim that this hard look was not done with respect to the six EISs. Further, it found that the groups were likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of injunctive relief and that the greater sage-grouse would suffer more hardship from the amendments than BLM would suffer from reverting to the original plans. It therefore preliminarily enjoined BLM from implementing the amendments.