Natural Resources Clinic Briefs Influence Ninth Circuit Decision

September 9, 2010

Law students in the University of Colorado’s Natural Resources Clinic contributed to a recent environmental victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.On September 1, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a 2008 decision by the U.S. District Court in Idaho that had overturned environmentally unfriendly regulations issued by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2006. Read Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink, No. 08-35359.The BLM, which administers almost 200 million acres of federal land in the far west, had rewritten its regulations so as to loosen environmental controls on public lands livestock grazing, reduce the role of the non-ranching public in land management, and allow private ranchers to establish ownership of water rights and range improvements on public land. Two internal BLM studies had predicted that the revised regulations would cause long-term harm to wildlife, vegetation, and water resources on public lands, yet the BLM forged ahead with the changes at the behest of the livestock industry.Briefs prepared by Colorado Law clinic students in 2006 and 2007 helped convince the Idaho district court that the BLM had violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act when it issued the new regulations. These students were supervised by National Wildlife Federation attorneys and Colorado Law Adjunct Professors Tom Lustig (who passed away in 2008) and Michael Saul. Under the supervision of Visiting Professor Joe Feller and Professor Saul, in the spring of 2009, clinic students Risa Borowick, Shannon Fritts-Penniman, Michele Mulhausen, and Wendy Sullivan drafted the briefs that convinced the Ninth Circuit to affirm the district court’s decision.