WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT WINS APPEAL

The Martin Basin Grazing Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision for 8 grazing allotments totaling 191,000 acres of mountainous high desert country near McDermitt, Nevada has been overturned by the Forest Service’s Intermountain Region in Ogden, Utah. The regional office’s decision affirmed Western Watersheds Project’s Appeal of the Forest Service Record of Decision. The Santa Rosa Ranger District had prepared a Draft Grazing EIS that proposed modest positive changes to address ongoing cattle damage to public lands – including streams, fragile springs and seeps and sagebrush, aspen and mountain mahogany uplands. These changes included requiring modern-day and uniform standards of cattle use for all permittees. The result would have been more protective grass cover remaining on streambanks and slopes of cattle-damaged watersheds, and better aspen regeneration. Right now, aspen clones in the Santa Rosa Range are becoming extinct due to cattle browse. Unhappy with controls on cattle abuses, politically connected public lands ranchers unwilling to heal the damaged public lands hijacked the EIS process, and pressured the Forest to insert a livestock industry “Collaboration” Alternative in the Final EIS. Portions of that Cattleman’s Alternative were chosen by departing Forest Supervisor Robert Vaught in the project’s Record of Decision. The so-called collaboration process consisted of closed-door meetings between the Forest and the permittee – where the Forest Service would be required to consider any proposals by the livestock industry for grazing on particular allotments. This contrasts sharply with the fair and uniform standards of use originally proposed by the Forest. The Forest Decision also included opening to livestock grazing two large allotments that had been closed, including one within the Santa Rosa Wilderness. The Martin Basin area includes large portions of the Santa Rosa Wilderness, and several occupied Lahontan cutthroat trout streams, as well as important mountain quail, sage grouse and pygmy rabbit habitat. “The Forest’s Decision was a travesty”, said Katie Fite WWP’s biodiversity director. This so-called “collaboration” left the door wide open for political arm-twisting by permittees unwilling to change harmful grazing practices. The end result would have been even more cattle-caused noxious weeds, more loss of surface water in springs and seeps, more manure in streams, and increased loss of LCT, demise of aspen clones, and loss of sage grouse habitats in this beautiful area”. Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP said: “This Martin Basin EIS was the result of previous litigation by WWP to protect high desert springs and seeps, and the remand of the Martin Basin EIS affirms WWP’s conclusion that this was a truly bad decision.”