Cows, What a many Splendored Thing

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Last week I went out with a co-worker to check out what was going on in the Jarbidge Field Office where Western Watersheds Project has won a court victory that ends corporate ranching on 450,000 acres of public land. When we arrived we found cattle on several of the allotments even though the injunction is in place.

The ranchers are asking the judge to stay the injunction and say that they have met all of the terms of the stipulated settlement agreement (SSA) which has expired. They argue that utilization monitoring has shown that they have not exceeded the terms and conditions of their permits or the SSA and, because of this, sage grouse habitat has improved. Even if they have met the terms and conditions of their permits and the SSA, which I won’t say one way or the other, the BLM’s Analysis of the Management Situation (AMS) notes that the Jarbidge suffered the cumulative loss of 800,000 acres of sagebrush-steppe habitat from 1982 through 2006, such that 46% of the JFO is no longer sage-steppe habitat. This doesn’t even account for the massive fires which have burned since 2007 such as the Murphy Complex of 2007 and the Long Butte Fire in 2010. Sage grouse and other sage steppe dependent species are in dire straits in the Jarbidge and as the WWP press release says:

“Recent data from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game shows that sage-grouse populations in the Jarbidge Field Office are in a free fall, with declines of over 90% since 2006 alone. For example, in the Browns Bench area of the Field Office, total male sage-grouse lek counts are down from 185 in 2006 to 29 in 2010, and some areas are in an even steeper decline.”

Jarbidge FO Pastures.  Click for larger view.

Jarbidge FO Pastures. Click for larger view.

While my biggest concerns lie with the plight of the wildlife there, I also find it startling that the Jarbidge Field Office has essentially turned into a livestock feedlot. Even recreation values have been totally eliminated here. The whole Field Office has been fenced into small pastures with what amounts to a weeping sore in each caused by cattle that congregate at water troughs surrounded by feeding tubs with some kind of molasses slurry, salt blocks, and even oat hay. On top of that is the droning of military jets overhead, some of them containing training pilots from Singapore.

I guess this is what they mean by “multiple use”.  I call it a cowpocalypse.

Judge overturns BLM grazing decision

This is what WWP calls “low hanging fruit”

Ely Sheep Grazing Allotments. The orange polygons represent bighorn sheep distribution and the red polygon represents the Warm Springs sheep trail. Click for larger view.

For the last several years I have been appealing grazing decision issued by the Ely District of the BLM and, over and over again, the District only considers alternatives which maintain the status quo even when they have identified problems on the allotments that are either caused by or exacerbated by livestock grazing.

The decision that was overturned and remanded back to the Ely District was for sheep grazing on 8 allotments encompassing 1.3 million acres of the Egan Field Office.  In their decision the BLM only considered two alternatives, one which would have renewed the previous 10-year decision without any changes; and one which would have renewed the permit with very minor changes in seasonal use, and placed very weak utilization standards on different components of the vegetation but kept the exact same number of grazing AUMs.  They didn’t consider a no grazing alternative or an alternative which would have reduced grazing levels at all.

Read the rest of this entry »

Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee

Fee is only $1.35 to graze a calf cow pair for a month.

Obama Administration Refuses to Reform Public-lands Grazing Fee
For immediate release – January 18, 2011

Contacts: Greta Anderson, Western Watersheds Project, 520.623.1878
Mark Salvo, WildEarth Guardians, 503.757.4221
Taylor McKinnon, Center for Biological Diversity, 928.310.6713
Brent Fenty, Oregon Natural Desert Association, 541.330.2638
Ronni Egan, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, 970.385.9577

Tucson, Ariz. – After a lengthy delay, five conservation organizations finally received an answer today from the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture concerning the artificially low fee federal agencies charge for livestock grazing on public lands. Claiming higher priorities, both agencies declined to address the outdated grazing fee formula. The government’s response was prompted by a lawsuit filed by Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, and Oregon Natural Desert Association.

Conservation organizations submitted a petition in 2005, asking the government to address the grazing fee formula and adjust the fee in order to cover the costs of the federal grazing program, which costs taxpayers at least $115 million dollars annually according to a Government Accountability Office report. Conservationists contend that Americans lose even more in compromised wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and native vegetation.

“Today’s long-awaited answer was a huge disappointment,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director for Western Watersheds Project. “Year after year, we watch as the government gives a sweetheart deal to public lands ranchers at the expense of taxpayers and the environment. We had hoped the Obama Administration would have done better, but it’s business-as-usual for the western livestock industry.”

“Subsidizing the livestock industry at the cost of species, ecosystems, and taxpayers is plainly bad public land policy,” said Taylor McKinnon, public lands campaigns director with the Center for Biological Diversity, “Today’s choice to continue that policy is both a disappointment and a blight on the Obama administration’s environmental record.” Read the rest of this entry »

War on Trees: Harry Reid, Ag Extension Agents, and Chinese biomass companies promote liquidation of old growth forests……. in Nevada

Pinyon and juniper trees, demonized by ranchers, miners and water mining entities, are being eyed by Chinese “biomass” companies with the backing of politicians.

Pinyon Juniper Forest, Nevada.  Photo - Katie Fite

Pinyon Juniper Forest, Nevada. Photo - Katie Fite

Recently the Nevada Pinyon-Juniper Partnership, aided by USDA, set up a conference to discuss pinyon and juniper trees. At the conference were several players in government and business who have an interest in the removal of pinyon and juniper trees in the Great Basin. Bob Abbey, the director of the BLM, attended the meeting.

Most people don’t think of the Great Basin when they think of old growth forests but the pinyon-juniper forests there are ancient forests with several hundred year old trees that provide important habitats and food for many species of birds like pinyon jays, Clark’s nutcrackers, black throated gray warblers, small mammals, nesting raptors. The charismatic seed-caching Clark’s nutcracker faces catastrophic food shortages in the Rockies due to whitebark pine die-off. It relies on large-seeded pines – and the pinyon pine has a superb large seed that was also vital to supporting Native American cultures in the Great Basin.

The refuge provided by these trees are probably the only reason that central Nevada has any elk at all. They are one of the important components that keep the entire Great Basin Ecosystem together because they retain snow later into the year due to their shade and absorb CO2. Their destruction would promote global warming and desertification by making the area hotter and drier. Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Richert: This year’s fight with the feds: Otter vs. BLM | Kevin Richert’s columns | Idaho Statesman

When I heard about the Interior Department’s decision to reverse the changes that the Bush Administration made to the policy on wild lands protection I was pleased. However, I remain skeptical at how the policy will be implemented by the current bunch running BLM who I don’t really trust. There is no doubt, however, how Idaho Governor Butch Otter feels about it.

The new policy reverses what the Bush Administration changed and allows the BLM inventory its lands to determine whether they meet the criteria for wilderness. The BLM would then go through a public process whereby lands could be designated as “wild lands”.

For Butch, and his buddies, complete domination over the landscape is not enough. It is unacceptable that anyone, other than the chosen few who maintain control, have any say in how the public’s landscapes are managed. It seems as if their motto is “one cow, one vote”.

Kevin Richert: This year’s fight with the feds: Otter vs. BLM.
Kevin Richert – Idaho Statesman

First major Idaho wildfires of the summer

There is a lot of drying grass due to the long wet spring-

Calmer winds ease firefighting on BLM fires west of Twin Falls, ID. Magic Valley Times News.

Posted in Wildfires. Tags: , , . Comments Off on First major Idaho wildfires of the summer

Judge Halts BLM’s Attempt to Revoke Valley Sun’s Grazing Permit for Lack of Use

BOISE — The Department of Interior’s Office of Hearings and Appeals has granted Western Watersheds Project (WWP) a stay of a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision to cancel Valley Sun, LLC’s (Valley Sun) grazing permit on public lands along the East Fork and main Salmon Rivers in central Idaho. BLM had attempted to cancel the permit for reasons related to Valley Sun’s failure to graze livestock on the allotments. In granting WWP’s request for a stay of the decision, the court cited the threat of irreparable harm to the environment, including endangered salmon habitat, on the steep public lands at issue should the allotments be subject to livestock grazing.

“The stay vindicates our position that public regulators have a primary legal obligation to protect the public interest, land, wildlife and fisheries habitat.” said Brian Ertz, media director for Western Watersheds Project. “In this case, BLM’s loyalties appear to lie with the industry it’s supposed to be regulating.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Lawsuit Settled over grazing in Sonoran Desert National Monument

Joint news release by the BLM and Western Watersheds Project-

This is a victory for WWPs Arizona Office in Tucson.

NEWS RESEASE

(PHOENIX, AZ)—The U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Western Watersheds Projects announced today settlement of a federal lawsuit involving the Sonoran Desert National Monument southwest of Phoenix, Arizona.

Western Watersheds Project filed suit in August of 2008 to challenge livestock grazing within the Monument.  “Our goal was to compel BLM to manage grazing in ways that protect the National Monument and its natural resources,” says Greta Anderson, the Arizona Director of Western Watersheds.

The BLM, a federal agency, is currently drafting a land use plan for the management of the National Monument, called a Resource Management Plan. The settlement stipulates that the Plan must be completed by December 15, 2011.  They will include a determination of whether or not livestock grazing is compatible with the protection of objects identified in the 2001 Presidential Proclamation that established the Monument.   “The Arizona BLM is dedicated to protecting the objects of the National Monument, and this settlement affords the staff a greater opportunity to focus on field work and achieve the deadline to complete the management plans,” says Jim Kenna, the BLM Arizona state director.

Read the rest of this entry »

BLM won’t fight grazing ban on Idaho allotment

Domestic sheep will not return to allotment in bighorn sheep habitat.

The Partridge Creek allotment in the Salmon River Canyon near Riggins is closed to domestic sheep grazing after Western Watersheds Project, The Wilderness Society, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council filed suit in Federal Court.

This is a huge victory for bighorn sheep which have declined in number to 3500 statewide, half of 1990’s population.

BLM won’t fight grazing ban on Idaho allotment
Associated Press

Earlier: Federal judge shutters Idaho grazing allotment

Federal judge shutters Idaho grazing allotment

Ruling protects bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon.

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The BLM Partridge Creek Allotment has been closed to sheep grazing to protect bighorn sheep from domestic sheep disease. This is a big victory for bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon. These sheep are native sheep and have seen drastic declines over the years due to domestic sheep diseases.

This decision follows victories for bighorn sheep on US Forest Service allotments in the area.

Federal judge shutters Idaho grazing allotment
Associated Press UPDATED STORY

acrobat pdfRead the order here

From Western Watersheds Project:

WWP expands bighorn sheep protection to Bureau of Land Management lands

~ Jon Marvel Read the rest of this entry »

Jury finds agency, DuPont negligent in land case

BLM and DuPont held accountable for killing crops which neighbor public lands by applying Oust in southern Idaho after wildfires.

Jury finds agency, DuPont negligent in land case
Associated Press

Posted in B.L.M., public lands, wildfire. Tags: , , , . Comments Off on Jury finds agency, DuPont negligent in land case

Utah senators complain about arrest of Southern Utah pot hunters. SL Tribune spanks senators

Senators’ attack on federal agents dangerous in these times of wingnut extremism-

Political pandering. Hatch and Bennett out of line. Salt Lake Tribune Editorial.

Destruction of archelogical valuable artifacts is a well known practice in Southern Utah. Time for a federal crackdown was way past, and finally a well planned raid was carried, arresting 23 local scoffaws.

Senators Hatch and Bennent are busy fanning the flames at a time when death theats as well as real shootings by the wingnuts have become all too common.

Nez Perce Tribe quits Idaho bighorn working group

New state law on bighorn undermines the working group process, tribe says-

This is good news about the sorry situation. Everyone should quit this group set up to make it appear that the Otter Administration gives a damn about bighorn.

Bad news!

And on top of this a bighorn mixed with domestic sheep (on private land), but adjacent to one of these troublesome BLM sheep allotments near Riggins the other day. Then the bighorn went back to its herd.

I understand that today they are deciding whether to kill the bighorn herd of ten bighorn rams because of this interaction likely to spread sheep disease back to the bighorn.

Story: Nez Perce Tribe pulling out of bighorn work group. AP

Group sees ‘violation of trust’

WILDLANDS CONSERVANCY: It brokered a BLM deal to protect the desert acres that are now being opened to development.

Group sees ‘violation of trust’ By JANET ZIMMERMAN The Press-Enterprise

Good news. Western Watersheds Project Wins Appeal Of Grazing Decision On 412,000 Acres Of Arizona Desert

This helps makes up a bit for the bad news on wolves today-

Tucson, Arizona

Today, a federal judge reversed the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to allow livestock grazing on 412,000 acres of public land managed by the Bureau’s Kingman Field Office. Saying, “Cattle are not ghosts. They are bigger and heavier than any native wildlife,” Administrative Law Judge Andrew Pearlstein admonished the BLM for not sufficiently considering the impacts of cattle grazing on four livestock allotments before issuing the permit.

The judge determined that the BLM failed to justify any economic need for the decision, failed to provide any site-specific information on fences, watering sites and other range developments, failed to consider retiring the area from grazing, and failed to meaningfully analyze the potential environmental impacts of grazing on annual ephemeral vegetation. Western Watersheds Project (WWP) had raised all of these points in its appeal of the decision in October of 2008.

The four allotments – Planet, Primrose, Alamo Crossing, and Crossman Peak- have not been grazed for 18 to 25 years. The area includes two federally-designated Wildernesses, the Bill Williams River, and habitat for desert tortoise, bald eagle, and bighorn sheep. Additionally, hundreds of archeological sites have been recorded within the allotments. The region receives just 3 to 7 inches of rain a year and summer temperatures reach near 110 degrees.

“We’re pleased that the Judge recognized the detrimental effect of livestock on soils, vegetation, and riparian areas. It is great that such a large expanse of desert will continue to be spared those impacts,” said Greta Anderson, Arizona Director of Western Watersheds Project. “It’s also a good reminder to the Arizona BLM that they have a statutory obligation under the National Environmental Policy Act to take a hard look at their proposed actions.”

Western Watersheds Project works throughout the west to restore watersheds and wildlife. http://www.westernwatersheds.org/

Judge Pearlstein’s Order can be found at WWP’s web site at this URL: http://www.westernwatersheds.org/legal/09/az/alj_kingman_decision.pdf

BLM, NPS to settle? Utah parks may yet escape oil drilling

Lease sale for Dec. 19 might exclude parcels adjacent to national parks-

Utah parks may yet escape oil drilling. Land lease » BLM and Park Service may settle their dispute today.

By Patty Henetz. The Salt Lake Tribune
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Original story in this blog from Nov. 9Utah oil and gas lease sale riles Park Service.

– – – –

Update 11-26. BLM backs off plan to issue drilling permits in Utah’s redrock country. Shoddy » Conservation groups criticize agency’s haste in issuing plans for 11 million acres. By Patty Henetz. The Salt Lake Tribune.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., sent a letter to Kempthorne saying, “this ill-advised fire sale of leases, which could irreparably harm the air, water and wildlife of three beloved national parks, should be halted.”

Grijalva, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Interior secretary in the Obama administration.