From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 9 - May 25, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Moose-Gyp grazing slammed

by Cat Urbigkit

When the Bridger-Teton National Forest proposed a series of actions on 34,219 acres of land in the Moose-Gypsum Creek area in the Upper Green, the list of management activities included vegetation and fuels, travel,and recreation resource management, including the closure and rehabilitation of dispersed campsites.

Last week the Pinedale Ranger District released the final environmental impact statement and record of decision approving about 1,800 acres of timber harvest, 5,000 acres of fuels reduction, 6,100 acres of aspen management, 21,000 acres of sagebrush management, an addition of 22.5 miles of designated travel routes, 9.5 miles of road closure, and the closure and rehabilitation of 29 dispersed campsites. These approved actions will lead the area toward the desired conditions described in the forest plan.

When the Pinedale Ranger District sought public comment on the proposal, several environmental groups took advantage of the comment period to offer their comments on livestock grazing in the region.

Jonathan Ratner of Western Watersheds Project wrote: “Since those ranges are critical to survival of big game during winter, adjustments in livestock use, and possibly total exclusion of livestock from those ranges maybe in order so that game can be naturally distributed on native range during winter. This applies to winter ranges for all big game species.”

Meredith Taylor wrote the letter on behalf of the Wyoming Outdoor Council.

WOC wrote: “Competition with livestock has created the perceived need to feed elk, so it would be appropriate to make the necessary management changes in allotment management that would allow substantial ground cover.”

Ratner wrote: “Grazing has severely impacted stream bank stability throughout the area. This leaves streams in a very weakened state, so even small to moderate increase in peak flow can have a much greater impact than intact stream banks, yet this was not factored into the analysis.”

The Forest Service pointed out in its response that the primary source of sedimentation in the area is from roads.

Lloyd Dorsey of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition submitted comments along a similar vein to WOC’s Taylor. He wrote of concern for sage grouse, noting, “One of the greatest threats to sage grouse populations is the destruction and loss of habitat from a variety of management activities including livestock grazing and ill-planned range treatments such as management ignited fires and other sagebrush removals.”

The GYC letter stated: “The BTNF is not required to offer livestock grazing opportunities in the Upper Green, particularly when such uses as they are currently managed are incompatible with modern wildlife management that should protect all native wildlife species ... Furthermore, the Pinedale Ranger District of the BTNF should include in any management proposal for the Upper Green an alternative that includes a recommendation to ... close the project area, and all grazing allotments around the project area, to predator control actions by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and/or the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services for the purpose of removing any predators to benefit or protect domestic livestock on forest lands.”

The Forest Service responded that predator control activities are not managed by that agency and are outside the scope of the agency’s authority.

GYC also expressed concern for Colorado River Cutthroat Trout populations and the impacts caused to trout by livestock grazing. GYC complained that since livestock grazing will continue as status quo, “it appears as if the fate of the cutthroat trout is still imperiled.”

GYC also noted: “... the Forest fails to disclose how the proposed action impacts the ability of grizzly bears to establish habitats outside of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the primary conservation area which is important for the future viability of the GYE’s grizzly bear population.” The Forest Service response noted that the project area is outside the official grizzly bear recovery zone.

Several of the groups opposed the amount of timber harvest proposed for this project.

GYC took issue to the EIS statement that timber harvesting remains an important contributor to local economies in the communities associated with the BTNF. Dorsey wrote: “This is very unlikely ... There is no longer even a local or regional mill to take logs from any timber project ...It no longer pays to harvest timber on the BTNF, particularly the eastern portions of this forest.”

WOC wrote: “While WOC supports socio-economic benefits of public lands to local communities, western Wyoming does not have enough timber market to justify 11.5 million board feet of timber harvest. The impacts of such a harvest would far outweigh the benefits.”

The BTNF responded, “The Forest Service disagrees with this comment as potential timber purchasers have already showed interest in the Moose-Gypsum Project proposal.”

A comment letter from The Ecology Center and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies noted these organizations feared that logging in the area would “unnecessarily artificialize” the forest ecosystem. The Forest Service responded in the FEIS: “It is not appropriate to generalize that human-induced disturbance always causes negative changes, but that natural disturbance is generally positive. It is the human value system that tends to make one better than the other. Existing legal authorities, as well as a history of federal land management, require that there be a balance between commodity and non-commodity aspects. Therefore, human needs and negative impacts must bebalanced in a way that produces a range of forest products while minimizing ecosystem damage and maintaining desired levels of ecosystem health anddiversity.”

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