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Conservation Reserve Program litigation

On May 27, 2008, the Farm Service Agency issued CRP-598, a critical feed use modification which would permit haying and grazing on up to 24 million acres of the 35 million acres in the program. Additionally, the haying and grazing was to be allowed during the nesting/breeding season plus there would be no reduction in payment to the landowners.

NWF, WWF, and five other NWF affiliates took legal action toward finding a fair and balanced decision that addresses ranchers’ and farmers’ needs as well as wildlife’s. A U.S. District judge issued a permanent injunction against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) program allowing widespread haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program lands. The decision reduces the number of acres open to increased haying and grazing from 24 million to less than 2 million.

The judge also ordered the following as part of the injunction:

·         In recognition of the good faith of those who acted in reliance on USDA’s authority to issue contract modifications related to the critical feed use program, all those who had applied for contract modifications prior to the judge’s issuance of a temporary restraining order on July 8th, (1.78 million acres) may proceed to hay and graze these lands.

·         No additional applications for the critical feed use program may be accepted by the Farm Service Agency unless the applicant can make a showing of having invested at least $4,500 in anticipation of participating in the program.  For these additional applicants, all haying shall be completed prior to September 15 and all haying shall be completed by October 15, 2008.

·         Those who participate in the critical feed use program cannot hay or graze lands enrolled in CRP again except pursuant to a managed haying or grazing contract modification that is consistent with previously established standards for CRP haying and grazing.

The injunction will not affect the carefully balanced, "managed haying and grazing" or "emergency haying and grazing" already allowed on CRP lands, which is not opposed by the Plantiffs.

CRP Press Release

CRP Final Injunction and Order

CRP litigation fact sheet


Lower Snake River Dams - NMFS litigation

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has released its fourth biological opinion - the plan meant to protect fish from the harmful effects of the Lower Snake River dams. NMFS's last three attempts to draft an acceptable opinion have met legal challenges by a coalition of fishing and conservation groups, including the Washington Wildlife Federation, and rejection by federal courts. 


On May 5, 2008, NMFS released its fourth attempt at a biological opinion on the impacts of Lower Snake River dams. NMFS has concluded that removal of the four lower Snake River dams is unnecessary because it can comply with the ESA by modifying legal standards, tweaking dam operations, restoring habitat, and reforming hatchery operations.  On June 17, 2008, Earthjustice – representing Washington Wildlife Federation and its coalition partners – filed a challenge to the new plan.


The case against the “2008 biological opinion” focuses on the legal and scientific failings of the new plan.  On the legal side, the case primarily challenges NMFS’s finding that salmon populations are not harmed by the dams so long as these populations are on a “trend toward recovery.”  NMFS finds this standard is satisfied so long as the populations does not continue to decline -- that is, so long as they remain stable or is growing, regardless of whether we see recovery in 100 or 1,000 years.  The scientific flaws in the opinion include NMFS’s failure to wrestle with the additional challenges posed by climate change and its decision to cut back on even past improvements to dam operations. 

The case is being heard by U.S. District judge James Redden in Portland.  The parties recently agreed to a schedule that asks the Court to hold a hearing on the case by the end of 2008. 

Last Updated (2008-07-09 17:36:39)

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