(Office of the Attorney General) – Today, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt joined a suit on behalf of the state of Nevada challenging the federal government’s greater sage-grouse land-use plan. In ten western states including Nevada, the federal plan withdraws more than ten million acres of federal land from public use. In Nevada alone, mineral exploration and development is barred on nearly three million acres. Additionally, the plan may result in significant restrictions on livestock grazing, resource development and public access on over sixteen million acres of public land in Nevada.
“The federal government’s one-size-fits-all sage-grouse plan will greatly hinder Nevada’s growth and success, and have an adverse impact on Nevada’s economy, affecting ranchers, mining exploration, new energy source development, recreation and everyone who works in these industries,” said Laxalt. “While I appreciate and applaud all of the efforts that have been made to negotiate a favorable outcome for Nevada, and continue to hope that ongoing negotiations may result in a better plan for Nevada, my office, after careful legal analysis, has concluded that this suit is necessary to fully protect the interest of the state.”
Senator Dean Heller added, “As I said before, the final greater sage-grouse land-use plans are not a win for Nevada—new restrictions on over sixteen million acres in our state alone pose a threat to our western way of life. I support efforts to stop these unnecessary regulations in their tracks and allow rural Nevada to thrive economically.”
Congressman Mark Amodei stated, “For 150 years, Nevadans have lived with decisions made from thousands of miles away in Washington, D.C. Nobody else does it this way– not at the local and state levels and not at the federal level for much of the nation. The sage hen resource management plans are based on political maneuvers where the last consideration seems to be multiple use in the West. The result is a nearly three million acre exclusion zone because the Interior officials in D.C. do not have to live with their rulings the way Northern Nevadans do. When the Department of the Interior completely ignores input from Nevada’s Environmental Impact Statement, I believe no tool should be left in the shed, and one of those tools is litigation.”
Before the federal government adopted its final plan last month, Nevada developed a State Plan that focuses on the specific needs of the sage-grouse population within the state while balancing relevant economic and rural concerns, and ensuring that federal land remains available for multiple uses. The plan was developed through the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council, and received input from all stakeholders including representatives from local government, the general public, wildlife, mining, ranching, tribal nations, energy, agriculture and conservation organizations.
The federal government is required by law to adopt a plan that allows for multiple uses that is consistent with the State Plan where possible. Despite repeated efforts by state and local officials, the federal government rejected major portions of the State Plan and withdrew millions of acres from other uses.
“Those who live closest to the land are the best stewards of it,” said Congressman Cresent Hardy. “This has been proven particularly true in Nevada, where locally driven conservation efforts helped keep the sage-grouse off of the endangered species list. But the federal government is actively choosing to ignore that reality. Washington should leave land management to those who need it most and who know it best.”
Congressman Joe Heck added, “On the surface, the Obama Administration’s decision not to list the sage-grouse as a threatened or endangered species may seem like a win for Nevada. However, the land use plans BLM and the Forest Service intend to implement have created a de facto listed designation by locking up millions of acres of land in our state and across the West, greatly restricting our future economic development. This is consistent with the Obama administration’s habit of disregarding solutions to local challenges developed at the state level, and instead choosing to enact its agenda through executive actions like these land-use plans. Nevadans came together and developed a plan to protect the sage-grouse and its habitat while still allowing lands to be used for economic development opportunities and recreation. Unfortunately, that plan was rejected by bureaucrats at the Department of the Interior who have no connection to the land and won’t have to deal with the consequences of their land-use plan. Nevada should pursue this litigation to protect our state from the negative impacts of yet another example of federal overreach.”
Attorney General Laxalt continued, “Being home to the second highest population of sage-grouse, this bird has long been a part of Nevada’s rural culture and history. Nevada has already demonstrated that our State Plan does a better job protecting sage-grouse than the federal plan, while also respecting the other needs of Nevadans. I am encouraged by the overwhelming support of federal, state and local government officials, together with Nevadans across our state on my decision to join this suit.”
Nevada counties who have joined the lawsuit include: Churchill, Elko, Eureka, Humboldt, Lander, Lincoln, Pershing, Washoe and White Pine. Other community leaders and associations that support this action include: Senator James Settelmeyer, Senator Pete Goicoechea, Senator Don Gustavson, Assemblyman John Ellison, Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, Assemblyman Ira Hansen, County Commissioners, the Nevada Association of Counties, the National Federation of Independent Business/Nevada representing more than 2,200 small businesses throughout the state, the Nevada Petroleum Marketers Association, the Western Exploration, LLC, the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation, the Nevada Cattleman’s Association and the Ninety-Six Ranch.
Nevada’s filed complaint is attached.
STATEMENTS OF SUPPORTERS OF THE ACTION
“Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s move to join Eureka and many other Northern Nevada counties in challenging the BLM and U.S. Forest Service Sage-grouse Management Plan sends a strong signal that this massive, federal land grab has devastating implications for Nevada. Governor Sandoval’s Consistency Review letter and formal appeal provide a strong platform for the attorney general to fight against the land use prohibitions and restrictions in the federal plan which substantially interfere with the state’s and Nevada counties’ Sage-grouse Conservation Plans. The state and county plans focus on habitat conservation, ensure long-term socioeconomic stability to preserve our way of life, and achieve the proper balance between the national interest and state and local interests. The federal plan upsets this balance, does not provide optimal sage-grouse conservation, and will cause widespread economic harm.” -Senator Pete Goicoechea
“The sage grouse issue has the potential to decimate the way of life in rural communities by restricting access to the public’s lands for recreation or businesses like mining, agriculture, and hunting. The current trend by federal regulators needs to be checked by sound scientific data. I support the attorney general in doing just that.” -Senator James Settelmeyer
“The Western states support land management that is not at the expense of Nevada’s economic development or culture. The federal plan does not take our state’s socioeconomic needs into account, and will be detrimental to Nevada’s development. I applaud the attorney general’s understanding of our rural culture, and support his efforts in this lawsuit.” -Senator Don Gustavson
“I appreciate the attorney general’s challenge to the federal conservation plan, which will have a tremendous effect on Nevada’s cultural landscape and economy. Nevada’s plan strikes a balance between conservation efforts and economic considerations, and would offer this state much-needed stability.” -Assemblyman John Ellison
“The federal government’s top-down land management plan will have a significant impact on the western states, especially Nevada. I am grateful to the attorney general and his office for acting in the best interest of this state and its rural culture.” -Assemblyman Jim Wheeler
“The federal government’s disregard for Nevada’s proposed state conservation plan will devastate our state’s economy. Nevada’s plan was carefully considered and backed by scientific data, and should have been taken seriously by the federal government. I commend the attorney general for taking a stand and protecting this state’s rights and best interests.” -Assemblyman Ira Hansen
“I want to thank Attorney General Laxalt for joining this litigation challenging the BLM and U.S. Forest Service Sage-grouse Land Management Plan. This Plan has already interfered with Washoe County’s ability to acquire an 80-acre parcel in the North Valleys needed for a new middle school, as well as a 40-acre parcel in Sparks identified for a veterans’ cemetery. BLM’s maps incorrectly show these parcels as sage-grouse habitat even though county maps clearly indicate they are not habitat and are suitable for acquisition and development. Future conflicts are inevitable because public lands surround Reno-Sparks suburban areas. The county must be able to acquire public lands to support future community development objectives.” -Washoe County Commissioner Jeanne Herman
“Attorney General Laxalt’s involvement with this litigation makes a bold statement that the BLM and U.S. Forest Service Sage-grouse Management Plan is wrong for Nevada. As ground zero for the Plan’s draconian land use restrictions and withdrawals, Elko County applauds Attorney General Laxalt’s decision to join this litigation and help us stop the agencies from placing over two million acres in Elko County off-limits to mining and other uses. The Plan has already cost Elko County $500 million from a wind energy project prohibited from being developed, and will cost at least $31 million annually in lost agricultural productivity.” -Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl
“We are in full support of Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s lawsuit in opposition to the federal government’s latest overreach into state affairs. The BLM’s new land use plans will close down all mining activity in Nevada, hurting not only the residents but all of the mining companies. Our industry is important to Nevada’s economic well-being and employment.” -Nevada Petroleum Marketers Association Executive Director Peter Krueger
“The Nevada Association of Counties appreciates Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s decision to join the Counties’ lawsuit to challenge the BLM and U.S. Forest Service Sage-grouse Land Management Plan. This Plan is unprecedented in its scope and is impactful, as it is the first Land Management Plan to use multiple-use statutes to protect a single species to the exclusion of other land uses. The Plan imposes unworkable travel restrictions and buffer zones that interfere with Counties’ police powers and their abilities to provide for public health and safety, as well as recreation, ranching, renewable energy and mining on which these counties rely for funding and employment. Further, the Plan withdraws 2.8 million acres from mining and other uses upon which many county economies depend. We applaud the attorney general for his leadership in helping us protest the federal government’s approach to managing sage grouse habitat–an approach that is not based on best available science, ignores local habitat conservation and land use plans, and fails to include effective measures to reduce the primary threats to sage-grouse habitat.” -Nevada Association of Counties (NACO)
“Western Exploration, LLC is very pleased that Attorney General Adam Laxalt is helping us challenge the BLM and U.S. Forest Service Sage-grouse Land Management Plan. This Plan threatens to destroy our Gravel Creek Project in Elko County, and the future of our company because our mining claims are in a withdrawal area. Western Exploration’s Gravel Creek Project is an exciting new discovery of a gold deposit that shows real promise to become a viable mining project. The Plan puts at risk our $32 million investment in this project and the many jobs and state and local economic benefits that would result from future development of a mine. We already have many sage-grouse habitat protection measures in place that make development of this project and sage-grouse conservation mutually compatible objectives, proving that the federal land withdrawal is an extreme measure that is not necessary to protect sage-grouse.” -Western Exploration, LLC Project Manager John Cleary
“The Nevada Farm Bureau Federation applauds Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s decision to join the counties’ lawsuit challenging the BLM and US Forest Service Sage Grouse Land Management Plan. The plan fails to adequately address the biggest threats to the sage grouse population: wildfire, invasive species and conifer invasion, and it unfairly regulates industries like ranching without sound science or reasonable procedures. Restrictions on the ranching industry will affect timing of range improvements, reduce livestock numbers on federal lands, eliminate or reduce actively permitted grazing allotments, and impact the ability to renew future livestock permits. The restrictions will also be counter-productive for the bird and its habitat. By eliminating a multi-use concept, the focal areas and priority habitat will become exclusion areas, which will decrease habitat restoration abilities by all industries and will increase the fuel load and intensity of wildfires in those habitats. This heavily restrictive, hands-off plan will result in the death of industry in Nevada and a steep decline in sage grouse numbers. We applaud Attorney General Laxalt and the others on the lawsuit and call for a local and state approach to ensure that the sage grouse population and Nevada ranching can thrive.” -Nevada Farm Bureau Federation
“We thank Attorney General Laxalt for joining the lawsuit to help us oppose the BLM and U.S. Forest Service Sage-Grouse Land Management Plan. This Plan will effectively put us, and others like us, out of business. It is truly unfortunate that the agencies chose to ignore the strengths of the Nevada Sage-grouse Conservation Plan and Governor Sandoval’s enormous efforts to work with them. As Nevada’s only sesquicentennial ranch owned and operated by one family, we know best how to care for our land and have a demonstrated track record of successfully protecting the sage-grouse habitat. However, we must challenge the federal Plan, which is effectively a massive federal land grab that substantially interferes with our ranching operation, will increase the buildup of rangeland fuels and result in habitat destruction due to wildfires, and threatens our family’s way of life.” -Ninety-Six Ranch Manager Fred Stewart