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

Greens attack grazing

by Cat Urbigkit

There were plenty of disparaging words about livestock grazing in the just-closed public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement for cattle grazing in the Upper Green River region.

As expected, the Western Watersheds Project submitted voluminous comments, in the form of two three-ring binders, complete with page-by-page criticism of the DEIS and accompanied by references in support of its position.

WWP accused the Forest Service of failing to provide adequate measures to conserve Colorado River cutthroat trout and tall forb vegetative communities, and failed to follow through on predator conflict reduction strategies.

"The analysis area is a major sink for the grizzly population, dozens of needless conflicts arise each year ... A similar situation is occurring with wolves," the WWP comments noted.

WWP stated, "Heavy-handed animal damage control work has nearly eliminated the packs in the area, all in the protection of private livestock at the expense of public wildlife."

WWP suggested that to reduce conflict, the Forest Service could prohibit allowing calves on the allotment.

"We question how much active herding actually does take place within the area," WWP stated. "If active herding was done and was done effectively, current riparian conditions would not be in such poor shape."

Degraded range and stream conditions and decimation of native species. That's how three environmental groups describe the area.

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance and Wyoming Outdoor Council submitted a joint letter, signed by their representatives: Lloyd Dorsey, Fred Smith and Meredith Taylor. These groups maintain the DEIS is inadequate and a supplemental EIS is needed.

The letter said: "The preferred alternative in the DEIS merely continues inadequate and harmful management practices which have eventuated in loss of species diversity, and loss of healthy habitat for native species, and does not substantively change management in a manner which will restore and protect this area."

The Forest Service must manage livestock grazing operations to minimize competition with wildlife and restore habitat, the letter stated.

The groups questioned if the need identified in the DEIS is to meet utilization objectives on the allotment, "we wonder how will that be accomplished in the future when it has not been successful in the past."

The environmental groups claim that the "no grazing" alternative wasn't adequately analyzed, and that the Tepee and Kinky Creek allotments need to be retired from livestock grazing.

"It is readily apparent from such indicators as wildlife species decimation and stream impairment that the Upper Green allotment complexes are being over-utilized; therefore the U.S. Forest Service must identify and analyze alternatives that decrease the livestock stocking rates or season of use ... " the letter stated, noting that no alternative analyzed running steers, yearlings or any other type of no-calf herd in the Upper Green.

"There are no alternatives that analyze vacating some allotments or pastures and allowing extensive rest of these areas from grazing for a period of years to ensure restoration of degraded conditions, particularly the rest from grazing for years of riparian areas," the letter stated.

The similarities between the DEIS alternatives indicate the Forest Service's "attempt to fool the public by inserting a false 'choice,' " the environmental groups' letter alleged. "An agency's admission of past unlawful management as exemplified in degraded conditions of streams and range, and decimation of native species, spanning parts of four decades and beyond, does not meet the level of a reasonable alternative."

The groups conclude: "The DEIS offers the appearance of attempting to continue the status quo management of the Upper Green River Rangeland Area. This is unacceptable given the adverse impacts to wildlife species and habitat."

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department submitted a letter of comment, focusing on area fisheries and trout populations. The letter contained five "areas where cattle grazing impacts have been observed in riparian areas," that includes WG&F observations of heavy grazing use, according to the letter. One of the five entries was "the entire Upper Green River Driveway."

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