The mission of Western Watersheds Project is to protect and restore western watersheds and wildlife through education, public policy initiatives and litigation.
Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit conservation group founded in 1993 with 1400 members and with field offices in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona and California. WWP is headquartered in Hailey, Idaho and manages the Greenfire Preserve in Clayton, Idaho. The group works to influence and improve public lands management in 8 western states with a primary focus on the negative impacts of livestock grazing on 250,000,000 acres of western public lands. WWP has an annual budget in 2009 of $1,000,000.
WWP works in partnership with the Oregon Natural Desert Association in Oregon, WildEarth Guardians in New Mexico, the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona; and the Larch Company in Ashland, Oregon. With these groups WWP co-founded the National Public Lands Grazing Campaign that supports federal legislation for a generous and voluntary federal grazing permit buyout program to compensate ranchers and restore public lands. Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona sponsors that legislation.
WWP’s long-term partner in our efforts to bring the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service into compliance with national environmental laws is the non-profit environmental law firm Advocates For The West in Boise, Idaho.
WWP manages the 432-acre the Greenfire Preserve on the East Fork of the Salmon River in Central Idaho. The Preserve incorporates more than 1.25 miles of the East Fork, which provides critical habitat for Chinook salmon, steelhead and bull trout all listed under the Endangered Species Act. The preserve also provides winter habitat for 150 elk, over 2000 whitetail and mule deer, wolves and the remnant White Cloud herd of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. The Preserve also provides year-round habitat for a wild horse band of sixteen horses. Since WWP began management of the property, more than 50,000 acres of public-lands grazing allotments associated with the Preserve have been closed to livestock grazing. Peregrine falcons, bobcats, spotted bats and wolf packs have replaced cattle. WWP’s management program for Greenfire includes an extensive restoration project funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Lake Creek Grazing Lease
In 1993, the degraded condition of riparian habitat along Lake Creek, on the East Fork Salmon River Watershed, following livestock grazing motivated concerned citizens to organize to improve the environmental condition of our public lands. Idaho Watersheds Project, now Western Watersheds Project, was formed spurring conservation efforts contributing to the restoration of public lands and wildlife habitat across the West. The improved condition following over a decade of Passive Restoration (removal of livestock) from Lake Creek illustrates the dramatic potential WWP’s mission works to achieve in order to restore public lands and wildlife throughout the West.
In 1993 WWP pioneered competitive bidding for grazing leases on Idaho state school endowment land and continues a program of competing for high conservation value school endowment land grazing leases in three states. That effort resulted in April 1999 in WWP winning three unanimous decisions at the Idaho Supreme Court in one day including the first reversal of an Idaho Constitutional amendment in more than 65 years.
At this time WWP holds over 4000 acres of these school endowment land leaseholds that are being managed for wildlife habitat and conservation purposes.
Through vigorous litigation under the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Federal Land Policy Management Act, WWP has successfully challenged public-lands grazing practices that threaten watersheds and endangered species such as salmon, steelhead and bull trout.
In August 2005 WWP won an unprecedented federal court injunction ruling removing livestock from more than 800,000 acres of BLM managed lands in south-central Idaho because of violations of federal law.
WWP and other groups also recently stopped the U.S. Department of Agriculture from carrying out an unscientific, inhumane plan to kill coyotes, foxes, ravens, badgers and other native predators on 35 million acres in southern Idaho.
In June 2007 WWP won an impressive federal court victory with the overturning of the Bush Administration’s grazing regulations for the Bureau of Land Management. This win beneficially affects over 160,000,000 acres of public lands in eleven states.
WWP regularly employs field monitors to identify damaged watersheds and document abusive land-management practices. Monitors report livestock numbers on grazing allotments, turnout times, overgrazing, degradation of streams and streambanks, destruction of riparian and upland habitat and illegal diversions of water.
WWP is one of six steering committee groups in the NPLGC, a progressive plan to end abusive livestock grazing on America’s public lands and compensate public-lands ranchers in the process. More than 120 conservation groups, including the Sierra Club, endorse the proposal. See http://www.publiclandsranching.org for more information about the NPLGC.
Western Watersheds Project has been very successful in bringing its conservation campaign to the attention of national press and policymakers. In the last five years more than 450 news stories have appeared about the work of WWP.
For a complete archive of Western Watersheds Project’s Online Messengers, click here.