Western Watersheds Project filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service today for allowing damaging and illegal livestock grazing and trailing to continue in Capitol Reef National Park of Utah. The lawsuit contends that the grazing authorizations are inconsistent with the Park Service mandate to protect and preserve nature, and that the permits being issued fall outside of Congressional intent to phase out livestock use of the park.
The Park has authorized livestock grazing that harms the Winkler cactus, the Wright fishhook cactus, and Last Chance townsendia, all federally protected plant species, as well as permitted livestock trailing through Mexican spotted owl habitat in a riparian corridor. The riparian corridor is already heavily degraded but the agency is allowing five more years of damage to occur before taking any remedial action.
Moreover, the legislative mandate was to allow only livestock operators who were using the park at the time of its designation to continue grazing use, and these permits were allowed to be passed on only to direct descendants and heirs of the original operators. Western Watersheds Project has information showing that the current permits are being issued to ineligible operators.
And finally, to make matters worse, the Park Service has added a new trailing route across the Hartnet allotment, and allotment just bought out and retired by the Sagebrush Habitat Conservation Fund last year! In a sneaky scheme, the agency is allowing grazing use to occur on the same lands we paid to close. It’s beyond annoying — it’s also illegal!