Permittees negotiate plan in wake of lawsuit filed by Western Watersheds Project


April 4, 2002 - Capital Press

MALAD CITY, Idaho - The Pleasantview Grazing Association and its attorney are negotiating a new management plan for a 59,000-acre grazing allotment west-northwest of here in the wake of a lawsuit filed by two environmentalist groups.

The Bureau of Land Management has a motion for settlement before U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill, but he has not yet signed it, said David Howell, public information officer with the agency’s Pocatello field office.

“We propose installing $400,000 worth of fences, pipelines, water troughs and cattle guards, and shortening the time livestock are out there by 21 days. Our assessment shows the land is in pretty good condition for the most part, but it’s very hilly country. The cattle tend to graze in the dry bottoms and riparian areas, so there are some areas that don’t look very good,” Howell said.

The lawsuit was filed against the BLM by Western Watersheds Project and the Idaho Conservation League, who said the agency violated the National Environmental Protection Act with a grazing decision issued last June. That decision allowed grazing to continue, even though the agency’s own studies showed that would continue to damage streams and plants on the land, the suit said.

“We are sorry it takes a lawsuit to force BLM to obey the law and heed its own scientists, but we are glad the agency recognized it was wrong and is willing to take the needed steps to comply with the law,” said Linn Kincannon, ICL.

Jon Marvel, WWP executive director, said the settlement will boost wildlife and water quality in southeastern Idaho.

The Pleasantview Grazing Association, which includes over 40 rancher members, filed as an intervener in the case. That gives the association the right to be involved in the decision making process now, said David Edwards, association president.

The ranchers met with their attorney Tuesday, but have not yet met with the BLM, Edwards said. The attorney, Randy Budge, was unavailable for comment.

The Pleasantview Allotment is divided into six pastures. Livestock graze there in a rest-rotation system, with two pastures rested each year, Edwards and Howell said.

“The BLM designed the system,” said Edwards. “We’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s worked well for us. It’s true that the cattle go to the bottoms to drink in the morning, and stay there until they drink in the evening and leave. Moving the water to the uplands with pipelines will definitely help. That, plus the fencing, will solve the problem.”

Ranchers oppose BLM’s proposal to cut the time livestock are on the allotment by two weeks in the spring and one week in the fall, he said.

“We’d rather have fewer cows out there and stay the same length of time. This proposal will force us to buy more hay, because none of us have enough pasture to feed our animals that extra three weeks. When hay costs $100 a ton, like it does now, that becomes uneconomical,” said Edwards.

Turnout on the allotment is traditionally May 15. The BLM would move that to May 29. Livestock leaves the allotment on Sept. 14, but the proposal is to change that to Sept. 8, Edwards said.

The allotment plan is for 16,632 animal unit months. That allotment wasn’t fully stocked, even before the June 2001 decision. On the allotment now, the ranchers run 10,564 AUMs. Those AUMs are mostly cattle, but include 677 head of sheep, Howell said. An AUM is the amount of feed needed to feed one cow and her calf for one month.

Rider Hired

The association assesses its members to pay for a rider to work on the allotment, haul water and fix fence. That charge has been $16 to $18 per head. Because of the lawsuit, that is rising to $25 per head this year, Edwards said.

“I’ve run cows out there for 50 years,” said Edwards, who ranchers where he was born. “I wish these people could see the difference between conditions today and what it was like then. There were a lot more cows out there then, and the land was really beat up. It’s in great condition now,” he said.

ICA frustrated

The Idaho Cattle Association is frustrated over grazing issues in Southeast Idaho because radical environmentalists repeatedly turn to court action to poke holes in the process instead of getting involved on the ground and participating in it, said Sara Braasch, ICA executive vice president.

“The permittees have come up with suggestions and ideas, but at this point the BLM, the court and the environmentalists aren’t willing to work with them,” she said. “With this additional bad example we hope we can finally go back to working through the process, actually getting on the ground and working on what’s important, checking cows and grass instead of being hung up in court.”

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]

Back to Current Edition Citizen Review Archive LINKS Search This Site