Groups Seek to Stop Livestock Plan that Threatens Survival of Rare, ESA-listed Frogs

For Immediate Release – April 15, 2019

Media Contacts:

Lizzy Potter, Advocates for the West, (503) 954-2721; epotter@advocateswest.org

Paul Ruprecht, Western Watersheds Project, (208) 421-4637; paul@westernwatersheds.org

Doug Heiken, Oregon Wild, (541) 344-0675; dh@oregonwild.org

Joanne Richter, Central Oregon Bitterbrush Broads, (541) 420-5861; joanneerichter@gmail.com

 

PORTLAND, Ore. – A coalition of environmental groups filed a lawsuit last week and moved for an injunction against a livestock grazing plan that would harm some of the best remaining public land habitat for the rare Oregon spotted frog. The species, found in Jack Creek on the Antelope allotment of the Fremont-Winema National Forest, is listed under the Endangered Species Act and is threatened by cattle which degrade and destroy the frog’s habitat and directly trample, kill, and disturb the animals in their sensitive fen environments.

Conservation groups have repeatedly challenged the Forest Service’s authorization of grazing in these fragile peat wetlands, but in December 2018, the agency issued a decision to substantially expand and increase livestock grazing on the allotment. The new grazing permit includes access to more parts of Jack Creek and previously closed acreage for livestock use. The groups hope to block 2019 grazing use on the allotment pending resolution to the lawsuit.

“Rather than taking sensible action to remedy long-standing conflicts, the Forest Service inexplicably decided to expand grazing into substantially more sensitive areas on this allotment. These new decisions ignore recommendations from scientists, the agency’s own experts, and members of the public who cherish the extraordinary biodiversity and unprecedented concentration of fens in the area,” said Lizzy Potter, the attorney from Advocates for the West who is representing the groups.

“Opening up livestock grazing in wetlands is a big step in the wrong direction,” said Paul Ruprecht, Oregon Director for Western Watersheds Project. “Not only does it continue to allow grazing where it is known to harm fens, it also allows livestock into other fens that have not been grazed in years and are recovering from previous damage.”

Under the new decision, grazing in Oregon spotted frog habitat will increase nearly twentyfold, expanding to nearly the entirety of the designated critical habitat on the national forest.

“The Forest Service is expanding use of sensitive frog and fen habitats, and justifying this expansion based on bureaucratic management changes that completely disregard potential on-the-ground impacts to this rare and endangered species said Joanne Richter, leader of the Central Oregon Chapter of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness. The agency has been allowing cattle trespass, overuse, and habitat degradation for years. Not even the Forest Service employees believe that additional fencing will work to keep cattle out of these sensitive habitats. Also, there’s no money in the agency’s budget for the proposed new fencing. The proposed actions are a waste of time, and completely inadequate when it comes down to managing some of the last good habitat for such an imperiled species.”

“After years of trying, the Forest Service has been unable to show that commercial livestock grazing can be compatible with values at risk on this part of the Fremont-Winema National Forest. In that case, endangered species and rare wetland ecosystems must come first,” said Doug Heiken of Oregon Wild.

The groups involved in the litigation are Concerned Friends of the Winema, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Western Watersheds Project, Oregon Wild, and the Central Oregon Bitterbrush Broads of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness. They are being represented by Advocates for the West.

 

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