Tugaw Ranches, LLC. v. U.S. Department of Interior

Illegal rulemaking threatens livelihoods

Cases > Separation of Powers > Tugaw Ranches, LLC. v. U.S. Department of Interior
Won: Court ruled that the Department of Agriculture must submit rules to congress.
Case Court: Distrct of Idaho

Ranching is in the Pickett brothers’ blood: Their family has lived and worked on the same Idaho land for five generations. They sell naturally raised beef, without hormones or antibiotics, much of which is distributed at Whole Foods.

Their business, Tugaw Ranches, LLC, has permits to graze on federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service. These permits are critical: during the summer, their cattle must move to higher elevations, which are owned by the federal government.

A new scheme, however, threatens the entire operation and their livelihood. In September, 2015, the BLM and the Forest Service devised a plan to protect the greater sage-grouse — an animal that’s neither endangered nor threatened. In fact, an estimated 425,000 sage-grouse populate 173-million acres in eleven western states.

The agencies’ plan sets aside over 65 million acres of federal land in ten states as sage-grouse habitat, which means restrictions on grazing livestock and other land uses such as recreation, oil and gas, timber, and mining. All told, this plan is estimated to eliminate more than 31,000 jobs.

This bureaucratic land squeeze could cost the Picketts their livelihood. Under the plan, they could be unable to graze their cattle for one month during the summer, and forced to downsize or close their business.

Not only is this plan burdensome and costly, it’s illegal. The agencies implemented the federal sage-grouse plans with four “Records of Decision” (RODs), but never formally submitted them to Congress for review under the CRA. The CRA requires regulatory agencies to send new rules to Congress for an up or down majority vote. But the sage-grouse plan was never submitted to Congress, so it’s not lawfully in effect and, as a result, is unenforceable.

On behalf of the Picketts, PLF is challenging the sage-grouse plan, arguing that it be properly submitted to Congress for consideration and, hopefully, eventual disapproval.

This case is part of a broader campaign to end the unconstitutional regulatory state through enforcement of the CRA.

Like many western U.S. ranching families, the Picketts have worked on the same land in Idaho for many generations and have a thriving business selling naturally raised beef. And like many ranchers, their business depends on grazing permissions on federal land. But their livelihoods are threatened by rules that set aside over 65-million acres of federal land as a habitat for the sage-grouse — an animal that’s neither threatened nor endangered. In fact, sage-grouse management rules eliminate more than 31,000 jobs.

On behalf of the Picketts, Pacific Legal Foundation is challenging illegal rulemaking by government bureaucrats. Agencies implemented the sage-grouse plans without first submitting them to Congress as required under the Congressional Review Act (CRA). PLF argues the rule is unenforceable until the agencies comply with the CRA, and that it should be properly sent to Congress for consideration and, hopefully, eventual disapproval.

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What’s at stake?

  • Rulemakers must follow the rules: No unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat can enforce any rule without first submitting the rule to Congress for review. Agencies’ refusal to follow the law threatens property owners, small businesses, and the environment.
  • The federal government’s sage-grouse management plan would cost $7.7 billion annually and as many as 31,000 jobs. Congress should review and overturn burdensome regulations like this one.

Case Timeline

February 26, 2019
April 11, 2018

Case Attorneys

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