Laxalt goes against Sandoval, joins suit against sage grouse rules
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 would continue to discuss the withdrawal of 3 million Nevada acres from future mineral exploration and multiple uses, but 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 would “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.
Sandoval was joined by former Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto who praised the governor’s efforts to negotiate with federal authorities on the issue.
“This lawsuit is premature and threatens the negotiations Gov. Sandoval has been engaged in with the Department of the Interior,” she said.
“While I appreciate and applaud all of the efforts that have been made to negotiate a favorable outcome for Nevada and continue to hope that ongoing negotiations may result in a better plan for Nevada, my office, after a careful legal analysis, has concluded that this suit is necessary to fully protect the interest of the state,” Laxalt 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 Washington, D.C. is ignoring western states’ input and needs.
“The result is a nearly 3 million acre exclusion zone because the Interior officials in D.C. do not have to live with their rulings the way Northern Nevadans do,” he said.
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.
“Despite repeated efforts by state and local officials, the federal government rejected major portions of the state plan and withdrew millions of acres from other uses,” he said.
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 he’s acting in his personal capacity are wrong and as Attorney General, he’s authorized to intervene in litigation about public lands, “in the name of the state.”
“The State of Nevada has joined this lawsuit,” he said adding the counties involved have stepped forward to fund the litigation.