Case Filed to Protect Copper Basin Fish from Grazing

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Western Watersheds Project filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Forest Service for its authorization of harmful livestock grazing in Idaho’s Copper Basin on the Salmon-Challis National Forest. This popular fly fishing destination is home to a variety of fish species including the mountain whitefish and sculpin, and yet the Forest has let excessive grazing degrade riparian areas year after year.

Today’s suit challenges the Forest’s authorization of grazing between June and October within the headwaters and tributaries of the Big Lost River. Past and present grazing practices have caused substantial habitat degradation in the Big Lost River Basin. The agency’s own monitoring shows that many of the streams fail to meet proper temperatures, have trampled banks, and don’t sustain the pools necessary to sustain the fish.

Rather than suspend or modify grazing, the Forest continues to authorize status quo livestock grazing. Many of the allotments also have regular trespass livestock and violations of use limits on vegetation, but the agency has failed to take punitive actions against many of the permittees or to enforce the few closures they have applied. Stream conditions have continued to deteriorate, and fish populations have continued to suffer.

While it shouldn’t take a lawsuit to get the Forest Service to follow the law, WWP is optimistic that today’s legal action will result in positive changes for this special place and these native fish.

A copy of today’s complaint can be read here.Photos of grazing impacts in Copper Basin’s riparian areas can be seen here.

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