Conservation groups want Forest Service land near Pocatello closed to livestock grazing

Now, your opportunity to comment on the Pocatello, Midnight, and Michaud grazing allotments-
Comments are due Jan. 4, 2011-

An opportunity like this only comes along every ten years or so.  I know a lot of people have been furious for years about the cattle grazing in the Bannock Range immediately west and south of Pocatello, Idaho.

Western Watersheds/Portneuf Valley Audubon Society new release on the grazing comment opportunity. Conservation groups want Mink Creek closed to cows.

Every ten years or so the Forest Service is supposed to revise its grazing allotment plans. One alternative they have to consider is no grazing. I know a lot of the folks I know here in Pocatello would say, “yes, yes” to reduced or elimination of grazing. There are a few beauty area closed, but about 1200 AUMs graze most of the area from June 1 until Oct. 10 each year (actually until the owners of the cattle bother to pick them up). That only leaves the month of May for an ungrazed experience in this key recreation area on Pocatello’s doorstep.

Here is the scoping document from the Forest Service showing the location of the allotments. PortneufAllotScoping11-22-2010

Send to your comments to Ranger Jeff Hammes, Westside Ranger District at this email address:   comments-intermtn-caribou-targhee-westside@fs.fed.us.  Tell why you are interested, give the information you have about the cows and what you think should be done. The formal name of document being prepared is the Lower Portneuf Grazing EA.

I took the photo below of a cow covered with houndstongue stickers on the Pocatello Grazing Allotment in the summer of 2009. The poor cow’s condition is not unusual, and of course their omnipresence keep the obnoxious weed spreading and spreading.

Houndstongue infested cow. Pocatello Grazing Allotment. Photo by Ralph Maughan. Public domain

They’re baaaack!

Washington Cattlemen want to try an “experiment” on your wildlife management areas

It seems that bad ideas just never go away. Even after they’ve been spanked in court, the Washington Cattlemen still want to waste tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of taxpayer dollars on this ridiculous exercise which is damaging to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife owned and managed, wildlife management areas in Washington State. More welfare grazing disguised as an “experiment”.

Do you want to help WWP stop this again?

Cattlemen work to restart pilot project.
By DAN WHEAT – Capital Press

S.D. ranchers fear wilderness act steals control

Ranchers complain about losing control while accepting government handouts.

The Buffalo Gap National Grassland of South Dakota doesn’t have buffalo any more but it certainly has a handful of ranchers with a strong sense of entitlement. They are worrying that wilderness designation will “steal” control that they seem to believe they should have over these publicly owned lands. Amazingly, the new wilderness designation leaves their control in place and allows them to continue grazing.

In the article ranchers bring up the tired old argument that Easterners are telling them what to do with “their” land but it’s not their land and the idea to designate it as wilderness, as the article points out, came from people who live there too.

“These outsiders from New York and New Jersey are telling us what to do, all these special interests,” Hermosa rancher Denise Baker said. “They’ll get the designation, pat themselves on the back and leave. And us? We’re stuck with it.”

Read the rest of this entry »

On the great Slickspot Peppergrass Controversy

Various players reflect on the recent listing of the plant, the ESA, conservationists, and the government-

Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) covered in cow flop © Brian Ertz

I think this is a big issue for Governor Otter because the plant grows where a lot of his pals graze.

I wish so much attention was paid to Idaho’s staggering education education system and all the unemployed people.  The plant grows in the least populated county in Idaho (lowest population density).

Endangered species clashes: far from extinct. By Nate Poppino.  Magic Valley Times-News writer

WWP, Advocates for the West post another victory regarding land baron grazing

Judge Winmill largely rules in favor of plaintiffs on the Nickel Creek case-

From Western Watersheds Project v. Department of Interior:

“For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant WWP’s motion in part, finding that the decision of the Interior Board of Land Appeals is arbitrary and capricious, and remanding the matter to the BLM to (1) include the Management Guidelines as mandatory Terms and Conditions, and (2) render a new decision on the Nickel Creek FFR allotment.”

Doubtful many here have heard of the Nickel Creek allotments in the Owyhee Country of SW Idaho, but this is cause for New Year’s cheers. WWP might have a news release by the end of the day. Here is the decision.  Winmill Nickel Creek decision 12-30-09

Idaho to pay to settle lawsuit on who can bid for grazing leases

Lawsuit’s aftermath forces Idaho’s Land Board set rules allowing conservationists to lease state grazing lands-

The Western Watersheds Project was born when Jon Marvel outbid a rancher at a state grazing lease auction, and the Land Board gave the lease to the rancher anyway*. Finally, Idaho’s Land Board is apparently going to let other interests compete for grazing leases on the state’s school endowment lands. This is a victory for Idaho’s school children, wildlife. It is also a victory for the Idaho and U. S Constitution, that we are equal under the law . . .  a well deserved slap at Idaho’s livestock nobility.

Idaho to pay $50K to settle grazing lease lawsuit. By John Miller. Associated Press Writer.

I met the winner of lawsuit, Gordon Younger, one time. He is a self-made millionaire, orginally from Washington State. He speaks very directly and is not impressed by Idaho’s livestock nobility. Younger’s attorney was Laird Lucas, executive director of Advocates for the West.

This is great! 🙂

Update. Here are the opinions. The first was March 2007.It was a decision by US Magistrate Judge Mikal Williams, which upheld the validity of the equal protection claims under federal civil rights law.
The second is by US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which affirmed Judge Williams and held further that the individual state officials could be personally liable because their discrimination against conservationists violated clearly established law. The Ninth Circuit decision is reported as Lazy Y Ranch v. Behrens, 546 F.3d 580 (9th Cir. 2008). I couldn’t get an electronic copy of the published version, but have the slip opinion.

Lazy Y March 07 dismiss order
Lazy Y Ninth Circuit opinion

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*Actually Marvel didn’t strictly outbid the rancher. The rancher refused to bid at all. Nevertheless, he was given the grazing lease. Reading about this blatant unfairness, my spouse and I immediately joined Marvel’s  nascent Idaho Watersheds Project.

The difference grazing cattle makes at the end of the season

Comparison of two sites, Nov. 4, 2009, in the Mink Creek drainage south of Pocatello, Idaho-

Mink Creek is a popular recreation area on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, just south of Pocatello, Idaho. The first 3-4 miles have no livestock grazing. As the drainage gains slowly in elevation, it is grazed from about June 1 to Oct. 15 by cattle every year.

I was up there this afternoon and I took two photos (actually more than two). They certainly show the difference. The first photo is lower down in the Mink Creek drainage with no grazing for well over a decade. The second is further up, in a wetter, actually a riparian meadow next to the South Fork of Mink Creek. The second photo should have the most grass were there no grazing.

minkcr-ungrazed09

Mink Creek drainage ungrazed. Nov. 4, 2009. The green on the right is a trail. Copyright Ralph Maughan

minkcr-grazed09

This riparian meadow is directly adjacent to Mink Creek (runs in the willows). It is also higher elevation than the first photograph. Taken Nov. 4, 2009. Copyright Ralph Maughan