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.

Top scientists urge halt to alpine grazing trial

…in Australia

Cattle Guard © Ken Cole

Why don’t scientists and government officials of this country understand the threats associated with livestock grazing in fragile ecosystems, like the arid west and high alpine areas, as the scientists and government officials of Australia do?

 

Just like Australia, we have environmental laws that are being broken, but rather than enforce those laws our government agencies are busy being spokesmen for the destructive livestock grazing in these landscapes. They routinely peddle lies and weasel out of any responsibility or accountability by producing huge volumes of documents that simply don’t do anything to address problems that are readily identifiable.

Top scientists urge halt to alpine grazing trial.

Dust cuts water flow into upper Colorado River

Dust from livestock grazing in the southwest reduces water runoff in the Colorado River Basin by 5%

An interesting study has been released by the Center for Snow and Avalanche Studies which explains that spring runoff from the Colorado Rockies has been compressed into a shorter period of time due to high levels of dust found on the mountain’s snowbanks.

“Runoff comes from the mountains in a more compressed period, which makes water management more difficult than if the water came more slowly out of the mountains.”

Evaporation and sublimation of the warmer snow itself–then transpiration from the earlier-exposed vegetation–results in water losses to the atmosphere, losses that then don’t go into runoff.

According to the study, the dust loading is five times greater than normal due to human activities such as livestock grazing, activities associated to livestock grazing such as vegetation treatments like these pictured in Nevada, and other disturbances.

After the Mower/Chopper Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole

After the Mower/Chopper Cave Valley, Nevada © Ken Cole


Read the rest of this entry »

Welfare Ranchers, Wolves, and the Externalization of Costs

Did a cow get your elk?

George Wuerthner has written another great essay about how ranchers are asking us to pay for the protection of their livestock on public lands by killing predators. They are also asking us to give up elk production on public lands when their cattle are using up vast amounts of forage needed to maintain healthy elk herds.

Welfare Ranchers, Wolves, and the Externalization of Costs.
George Wuerthner, NewWest.Net

Western Watersheds Project fights for fish, wildlife, and fiscal responsibility

Western Watersheds Project - Working to Protect and Restore Western Watersheds and Wildlife
Online Messenger #177

Western Watersheds Project wins in Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho and Continues our Push For Environmental & Fiscal Responsibility Throughout the West

~ Jon Marvel
Jon Marvel

Friends,

Western Watersheds Project, with the help of many of our allies in the conservation community, has been bringing much needed change to public lands and wildlife management throughout the west.

Recently, WWP’s efforts have resulted in a favorable settlement on a Nevada allotment that served as center-stage of the controversial Calico free-roaming horse roundup, an extended closure of cattle grazing on key fish and wildlife habitat on the Payette National Forest in Idaho, and protections for hundreds of miles of fish habitat on the Malheur National Forest in Oregon.

Also, WWP continues our push to insist that the federal government address the massive budget shortfall with its destructive public land grazing program in the west.

Payette National Forest Closure of Cattle Allotment in Key Wildlife Area

The Rapid River area near Riggins, Idaho provides some of the most important spawning waters in Idaho for chinook salmon, steelhead, and bull trout, all fish listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.  This area also has critical winter habitat for mule deer, elk and bighorn sheep, and is also home to the rare mountain quail.  With its scenic backdrop of the Seven Devils Mountains and plentiful wildlife, the Rapid River also provides outstanding recreation and hunting.

A large cattle allotment of over 21,000 acres is located in the Payette and Nez Perce National Forests, the Fall Creek/Whitebird Allotment.  The Rapid River forms this allotment’s western boundary.  The Forest Service has documented ongoing degradation from livestock grazing, including to the springs and headwaters in this allotment, as well as problems with invasive weeds and unmaintained improvements.  Despite these documented problems, in 2009, the Payette National Forest New Meadows District Ranger approved continued livestock grazing, which WWP successfully appealed to Payette Forest Supervisor Suzanne Rainville.

The Payette National Forest has agreed with the permittee to a voluntary closure to cattle grazing on the Fall Creek/Whitebird Allotment for resource protection for at least 7 years.  WWP is pleased that the Payette and the permittee reached this voluntary agreement, which will remove livestock from these outstanding public lands, and promote improved habitat for fish and wildlife.

WWP and Partners Challenge Destructive Public Lands Grazing Subsidy

Today, Western Watersheds Project and partners Center for Biological Diversity, Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Oregon Natural Desert Association, and Wildearth Guardians sued the Departments of Interior and Agriculture to compel them to respond to a 2005 rulemaking petition that seeks to increase the fee for livestock grazing across 258 million acres of federal public land.

Read the News Release

Read the Complaintpdf

Read the Grazing Fee Petitionpdf

WWP and Partners Win Protection for Steelhead trout on the Malheur National Forest

Western Watersheds Project, along with our partners at the Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) and the Center for Biological Diversity, have won litigation against the Malheur National Forest in Oregon in regard to livestock grazing on hundreds of miles of streams designated as critical habitat for Endangered Species Act listed ocean-run steelhead trout.

WWP was well represented in this litigation by Dave Becker and Mac Lacy of ONDA with help from Kristin Ruether of Advocates for the West.

Read the News Release

Read the Decisionpdf

Jon Marvel
Executive Director

Banner: Black Rock Area in Soldier Meadows, Nevada © Katie Fite, WWP 2010

Bighead CloverBig-head clover (Trifolium macrocephalum) © Katie Fite, WWP 2010

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WWP is now accepting donations via Paypal !

WWP Nows Accepts Paypal Donations

Photos: Thanks to Katie Fite and Don & Joyce Clarke !

WWP Wins Favorable Settlement of Soldier Meadows Allotment, NW Nevada

The Soldier Meadows Allotment contains Bureau of Land Management public lands enjoyed by wildflower, wildlife, wilderness and free-roaming horse enthusiasts.

Livestock use of this public land allotment is largely responsible for the controversial ‘Calico Rounduppdf of free-roaming horses.

WWP is pleased to bring this victory to recreationists and non-consumptive users of all stripes, whose interests in these magnificent public lands are commonly diminished by public land ranching.

WWP was ably represented by Advocates for The West‘s attorney, Todd Tucci.

Read the Settlement Agreementpdf

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What a misleading article! Poor ranchers must do without

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.

Posted in Grazing and livestock, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: , , . Comments Off on What a misleading article! Poor ranchers must do without

Feds Fight to Keep Names of Ranchers With Grazing Permits Secret

Information is needed to understand who the program benefits and how many livestock are grazing public lands

The program that is heavily subsidized by the public to the tune of $123 million annually is veiled in secrecy. Welfare ranching of public lands, simply put, is the subsidized destruction of our public lands for the benefit of just a few and those few are struggling to maintain anonymity.

“Without names and addresses, advocates say, it’s virtually impossible to know who is using federal public lands for grazing, how many animals are involved, and on how many allotments. In short, no one can develop a profile of the typical public rancher. Yet the BLM administers a massive grazing program —18,000 permits for nearly 16,000 livestock operators using 138 million acres of public lands — that comes at a steep price.”

Livestock grazing is the most destructive and widespread practice on public lands and is responsible for the extinction and imperilment of numerous species across the west.

A cow that died from poor grazing management on public lands © Katie Fite

Feds Fight to Keep Names of Ranchers With Grazing Permits Secret
By Kristen Lombardi – Center for Public Integrity