A U.S. District Judge on Tuesday limited Hammond Ranches from fully utilizing its grazing permits. In a 58-page ruling, Judge Michael H. Simon granted a partial preliminary injunction, approving an alternative grazing plan for the Hammond’s cattle that the Bureau of Land Management had proposed in June.
Three environmental advocacy groups – Western Watersheds Project, the Center for Biological Diversity and Wildearth Guardians – sued the Interior secretary and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management after the government in January renewed a 10-year grazing permit for Hammond Ranches. The groups argued that Zinke violated federal regulations because the government failed to consider the Hammonds’ unsatisfactory record or do proper environmental reviews.
The renewal of the Hammonds’ 2014 grazing permit followed President Donald Trump’s pardon of the Hammonds last summer. Dwight Hammond Jr. and his youngest son, Steven Hammond, convicted of arson, were serving out five-year mandatory minimum sentences for setting fire to public land where they had grazing rights.
In Tuesday’s ruling, Simon ordered no grazing on one parcel called Mud Creek, but allowed for cattle to “quickly and methodically trail through” the allotment to access the federal Hardie Summer allotment. Further, Simon reduced grazing on the Hardie parcel to 30% of the normal standard in the ranches permit. No further grazing was allowed beyond those restrictions.
In his ruling, Judge Simon wrote such restrictions will reduce harm to sage grouse by eliminating nearly all grazing on the Mud Creek allotment and significantly reducing grazing on the Hardie Summer allotment, and will lessen the harms to redband trout by eliminating grazing on a portion of what’s called Little Fir Creek. He said the environmental groups had shown a likelihood of succeeding in proving that former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s order for the government to reissue a 10-year grazing permit to the Hammonds this year “was arbitrary and capricious’’ and unlawful.