From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 6 - May 6, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

EPA slams grazing proposal

by Cat Urbigkit

The Region 8 office of the Environmental Protection Agency recently submitted 16 pages of comment on the draft environmental impact statement for livestock grazing in the Upper Green River region of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, providing a surprising perspective for a federal agency.

The agency maintains that the DEIS evaluates a narrow range of alternatives that do not fully resolve impacts.

"We are concerned that the Forest Service did not evaluate options to consider: reducing the number of livestock or changing operations, discontinuing grazing in some allotments or parts of allotments where adverse environmental impacts are greatest, nor implementing more protective grazing practices and conditions and land management improvements," EPA stated.

The EPA letter said, "Overall, we have serious concerns about deficiencies in the DEIS, the limited range of alternatives to the proposed action, and the amount of adverse impacts to aquatic and terrestrial resources that will continue under the proposed action."

The federal agency suggested, "The potential for significant environmental degradation could be reduced by analyzing and incorporating the following options for alternatives:

protect important aquatic resources and riparian habitats by enhancing fencing and livestock/recreation exclosures, livestock watering facilities, and other practices;

reduce the intensity (number of animals/AUM) and duration of livestock grazing;

consider additional work with stakeholders and community groups for greater conservation through active riders/herders on the allotments, education, enforcement, and monitoring by the Forest Service and Forest users; and

better protect endangered grizzly bears, gray wolves, and other predators and wildlife by changing the types of operations from cow-calf to steer and cow operations."

EPA said of the alternatives examined in the DEIS, no grazing "is recommended as the environmentally preferred alternative." The agency recommended that either the proposed action be modified to minimize conflicts or another alternative should be developed.

"EPA believes that Forest Service should evaluate its practices with regard to endangered predators that are relocated or killed because they prey on what appears to be prey animals in their core habitats," the letter stated.

EPA requested the Forest Service prepare more socioeconomic information for the public to consider. The agency noted, "No grazing, for example, would have positive recreation and community business impacts as well as negative impacts to allotment permittees." EPA suggested more information about the economic benefits of recreation, and fish and wildlife resource values, be included in the planning process. Also needed is an explanation of grazing fees and "disclose the grazing benefits to permittees and the administrative costs to the Forest Service."

The letter noted: "While grazing is a beneficial use to permit holders, subsidies from the Forest Service to administer grazing do not include the environmental costs that are incurred in the forest. ... For those not familiar with grazing fees program requirements, further explanation of the overall benefits to the community, allotment permittees, and overall forest resources would be helpful to understand why continued grazing is proposed when the DEIS notes that continued grazing will cause environmental and Forest Service costs."

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