The Comb Wash Case: The Rule of Law Comes to the Public Rangelands
Public Land & Resources Law Review, Vol. 17, p. 25, 1996
30 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2009
Date Written: 1996
On December 20, 1993, District Chief ALJ John R. Rampton, Jr., an administrative law judge (ALJ) in the Department of the Interior, issued a decision (the Comb Wash decision) holding that, in managing the Comb Wash Allotment, the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated-the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act. He further prohibited the BLM from authorizing grazing on a portion of the allotment until BLM compliance. Although the decision is hardly newsworthy, there was large outcry by those who fear more grazing restrictions on public land use. Despite the expressed fears of the livestock industry, the decision will not 'shut down' public lands grazing, and may help to bring grazing within the normal legal framework that governs other uses of the public lands. The article summarizes the Comb Wash case; places the decision in perspective by discussing the systemic, West-wide BLM practices that were reflected in the particular actions found unlawful on the Comb Wash Allotment; discusses the application of the principle of “multiple use;” and briefly speculates on the minimal effect of the decision on BLM range management outside of the Comb Wash Allotment.
Keywords: Natural resources law, land use, enviromental law
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