Thurston County Superior Court has ruled in favor of Dr. Steve Herman and Western Watersheds Project deciding that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) violated the State Environmental Protection Act when issuing grazing permits on its state wildlife areas without undergoing environmental analysis. The state and Washington Cattleman’s Association had claimed that such analysis was not required as the lands had been grazed in the past under a ‘verbal lease’ – a handshake, and that this arrangement exempted the parties from the need to undergo the analysis.
Court faults Fish and Wildlfie for granting Kittitas grazing lease – Yakima Herald-Republic :
Steve Herman, the Thurston County resident who filed the suit on behalf of the Western Watersheds Project, a regional conservation group based in Idaho, called last week’s ruling “a very clear-cut victory for those of us who would preserve some wildlife areas for wildlife.”
The Whiskey Dick/Quilomene Wildlife Area was acquired by the people of Washington as critical wildlife habitat to preserve steelhead fisheries, big game, and other wildlife including the state-listed Greater Sage-grouse and other sage-steppe obligate species.
The Wildlife Area is particularly critical for Greater Sage-grouse in Washington, whose populations have been significantly diminished given fragmented and degraded habitat, leaving the bird teetering on the brink of extinction in the state.
The Wildlife Area is located directly between the two remaining populations of sage grouse in Washington state, providing a critical link, a habitat corridor. Grazing the area threatens this habitat, potentially exacerbating the isolation between the two remaining sage-grouse populations.