Forest Service grazing categorical exclusions

Forest Service grazing categorical exclusions

Current Status:

Case Title:
WWP v. U.S. Forest Service, case no. 08-1460-PJH

Staff attorney(s):
Laurie Rule


Western Watersheds Project

Utah Environmental Congress


Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center

Center for Biological Diversity

California Trout

To Protect:

Great Gray Owl
Greater Sage Grouse
Northern Goshawk
Salmon and steelhead

Date won/settled:
March 30, 2012



Victory In California At Long Last

After getting past numerous procedural battles in this case, Advocates for the West won a victory on its challenge to two grazing decisions in northern California where the Forest Service had conducted no environmental analysis.  U.S. District Court Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled in our favor, throwing out both decisions.  On the Klamath National Forest near the border with Oregon, cattle grazing was harming recreation opportunities in the Marble Mountain Wilderness, with cattle trampling and defecating on campsites, meadows, lakes, and trails.  The Judge ruled that because of those impacts, the Forest Service had to complete a full environmental analysis to reauthorize grazing in the wilderness. On the Mendocino National Forest near the coast of California, the Forest Service did not have the necessary monitoring data to show that grazing was not causing any harm to vegetation, streams, and fish.  For both decisions, the agency now must go back and do appropriate environmental analyses to assess the full impacts of grazing on these resources.

Thanks to our hydrology and riparian expert Jon Rhodes for providing valuable assistance and a declaration in support of our case!

Speak out for sage-grouse!

Now is the time to speak out in favor or sage-grouse protection! Bureau of Land Management is asking for public comment. Make your voice heard in favor of this iconic Western bird. Increased sage-grouse protection equals increased public lands protection!

Interested members of the public can send comments to, fax comments to 775-861-6747 or send by mail to Great Basin Region Project Manager, BLM Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Boulevard, Reno, NV 89502.

Venue transfer denied

After the parties partially settled this case, the Forest Service still tried to move the remainder of Plaintiffs’ case from the Northern District of California to the Eastern District of California.  In a short but sweet Order, the Court denied this motion and retained the case.  Now the parties finally can get to the merits of this case!

Case Information:

We teamed up with heavy-weight San Francisco law firm Keker & Van Nest in this litigation challenging hundreds of Forest Service grazing permit renewals on dozens of National Forests across the West. These permit renewals were done without any NEPA analysis, instead using “categorical exclusions” under an appropriations “rider” passed by Congress several years ago, which the Forest Service has consistently misapplied. We represented many client groups in this case, including Western Watersheds Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Trout, Center for Biological Diversity, Grand Canyon Trust, Oregon Natural Desert Association, Utah Environmental Congress, and others.

After extended negotiations, the parties partially settled this case. The Forest Service agreed to withdraw a number of the challenged decisions and conduct the appropriate environmental analysis for them. In return, Plaintiffs agreed to drop the remaining challenged decisions that arose outside California. Plaintiffs then challenged several decisions in California, and just won a victory on two of them! See “Updates” below for more on these victories.

As for the decisions Plaintiffs dropped from this case, several of the groups have filed a new case in Idaho challenging ten of those decisions from Idaho, Wyoming, and Utah.  Look for Western Watersheds Project et al. v. U.S. Forest Service, case no. 10-612-REB for a description of that case!