Nevada attorney general challenges sage grouse rules |

Nevada attorney general challenges sage grouse rules

by Geoff Dornan
The BLM has issued a decision for greater sage-grouse land use plan agreement.
Jeannie Stafford / USFWS |

Attorney General Adam Laxalt has joined several of Nevada’s counties in a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s plan to manage the sage grouse population in the West.

The decision sparked a dispute between Laxalt and the governor’s office after a spokesman for Gov. Brian Sandoval said litigation is premature.

“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,” Laxalt said in a statement.

He charged the plan might cause restrictions on livestock grazing, resource development and public access to some 16 million acres of public land in Nevada.

Sandoval Communications Director Mari St. Martin said the federal decision listing the bird is unwarranted is a direct result of Nevada’s collaboration with other western states.

“Prematurely embroiling the state in costly litigation at this juncture threatens to compromise future collaborative efforts to implement the Nevada plan developed over the last four years by the Sagebrush Ecosystem Council,” she said.

St. Martin said Sandoval will continue to discuss the withdrawal of 3 million Nevada acres from future mineral exploration and multiple uses, but that the governor’s course of action is the result of more than a decade of experience with the sage grouse issue.

She said Sandoval fears joining a lawsuit now will “chill ongoing discussions” between the state and Interior Department.

“By pursuing litigation now, the Attorney General is acting in his personal capacity and does not represent the state of Nevada, the governor or any state agencies,” she said.

He also cited objections to the deal with the federal government by Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev. Heller said the restrictions on 16 million acres of public land “pose a threat to our western way of life.”

Amodei charged that Washington, D.C. is ignoring western states’ input and needs.

Laxalt said the federal government is required to adopt a plan that allows for multiple uses and is consistent with the state plan where possible.

He joined in the suit along with Western Exploration LLC, Elko, Eureka, Lander, White Pine and Lincoln counties and Quantum Minerals LLC.

Laxalt said statements by the governor’s office that he is acting in his personal capacity are wrong, that, as Attorney General, he is authorized to intervene in litigation about public lands, “in the name of the state.”

“The State of Nevada has joined this lawsuit,” he said.