No grazing on the Whisky Dick and Quilomene wildlife areas in Washington State
The State of Washington has spent a lot of money trying to justify cattle grazing on wildlife management areas in the state which are comprised of lands purchased using Federal money specifically intended for wildlife habitat. The lands in the Whisky Dick and Quilomene wildlife areas are important habitats for the last remaining sage grouse in the state which need them if they are ever to move from one population area to the other and there is a possibility that they might re-inhabit the area. Sage grouse have been sighted there in the recent past. The lands are also important for steelhead and elk and have many native American cultural sites.
In a cynical ploy to win over votes from ranchers, Democratic Governor Christine Gregoire pushed to allow grazing on these important lands but it appears that she has lost. Western Watersheds Project has been working hard to keep any further grazing from occurring on the state’s wildlife management areas. It’s shocking to hear this complaint in the article Cattle ranchers again must cope with limited grazing. Yakima Herald-Republic, about having to place to graze. They were grazing on land purchased specifically to benefit fish and wildlife. Governor Gregoire was allowing the grazing to the wildlife area for no grazing fee whatsoever! Free! The news article makes it sound like something is being done to the ranchers, when in fact the whole grazing scheme was a politically-inspired raid on the public trust, public purse, and the state’s fish and wildlife.
A judge recently scolded the State for its pilot grazing program in the Asotin Wildlife Area where there has been a lot of damage to the habitat and a worker was severely injured while trying to build a fence on a very steep slope. The judge said that not only did the program not improve habitat like was claimed, but that it damaged the habitat.
-Ken Cole and Ralph Maughan contributed to this post.