April 21, 2023
Is it time for local representatives to enact ordinances for public land within the county? What about at the state level? I would argue that it is, and the proposed Lava Ridge wind turbine project is a prime example of why. Opposition to the project is substantial and broad. Listing the different reasons people are against the project would take too long. I’ll just say this: I have not met one person or group that thinks the project is good for Idaho. Our state and local governments have publicly opposed the project through resolutions and statements. Our federal delegates, our governor, and our legislature all oppose the project, but every time I ask an elected official, I get the same answer. They say it’s the BLM’s jurisdiction and they have the final say. So what happens when the BLM decides to side with the corporate financial incentives? When BLM Director Stone-Manning was questioned on the project, she answered by saying that the President has requested the BLM generate twenty-five gigawatts of renewable energy production on public lands by 2025.
If the BLM is prioritizing the industrial development of public land, then they are not prioritizing their original mandates that were developed over decades by numerous acts of Congress. The BLM was formed by the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934. Courts have recognized that the purpose of the Act “is to stabilize the livestock industry and to permit the use of public range according to the needs and qualifications of livestock operators with base holdings.” Courts also stated that the Act is intended “to define their grazing rights and to protect those rights by regulation against interference” (See Chournos v. United States and Red Canyon Sheep Co. v. Ickes)
The Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, or FLPMA, imposes a number of different and overlapping requirements, obligations, and priorities on the Department of the Interior and its agency, the BLM. Those mandates, though vast, prioritizes “multiple-use” and “sustained yield” and “the preservation of valid existing rights, including grazing rights, mining claims..,” etc.
These Acts were developed to protect established rights and our nation’s cattle and mineral industry while simultaneously upholding the principle of multiple use for the people. They were intended to keep the peace, keep access, and preserve our Western lands, but what happens when the Department of the Interior no longer follows these directives and instead allows and profits from the industrial development of huge swaths of public land? They say it won’t affect grazing rights, but if that’s true, why is LS Power trying to work out reimbursement with the permit holders? They say it won’t affect access, but we can find numerous instances of these turbines being vandalized and the utilized areas being closed to public access.
If the BLM is going to manage our land contrary to our principles, not to mention their congressional directives and the law, then I believe it’s time for our elected representatives to enact state and local codes that ensure the protection of these very important principles and rights before they are completely abandoned by D.C.
If the county and the state are afraid to codify these rights, and then have this battle in the courtroom, then they leave it to the people on the land. This would be very irresponsible.
Eric Parker is a States’ Rights advocate from Blaine County, Idaho.