Permittees negotiate plan in
wake of lawsuit filed by Western Watersheds Project
By PATRICIA R. MCCOY
April 4, 2002 - Capital
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
Jon Marvel, WWP executive director,
said the settlement will boost wildlife and water quality in
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,
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
“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
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.
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.
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
“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