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Here Are The News Releases From November 21 and November 25 2002:
Western Watersheds Project and the Committee for the High Desert have sued the Bureau of Land Management for the continued ruin of more than 500,000 acres of public lands in Nevada and the destruction of the only remaining critical habitat for the desert dace, a rare fish species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
"In embracing a more intensive grazing regime in desert dace critical habitat, the BLM has turned its back on sound science," said Todd Tucci, staff attorney for the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, which represents the conservation groups. "Incredibly, the BLM is refusing to protect the last three miles of occupied habitat of desert dace. This plan pushes the species closer to the edge of extinction in express violation of the Endangered Species Act."
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno, cites the BLM for failing to stop the ecological damage caused by livestock grazing -- damage that the BLM has noted in its own analyses -- on the Soldier Meadows and Paiute Meadows grazing allotments in northwestern Nevada.
The allotments lie within and adjacent to Black Rock Desert, which includes many areas of designated wilderness.
"BLM itself has documented the adverse impacts of grazing within these allotments but continues to cower to the whims of politically-connected ranching corporations," said Tucci.
The Hot Springs Pasture of the Soldier Meadows allotment contains the only known habitat for desert dace. Several streams in the Soldier Meadows and Paiute Meadows allotments also provide occupied habitat for Lahontan cutthroat trout. Populations of these species have declined dramatically in recent times.
"It is long past due for the BLM to stand up for the ecological health of our public lands," said Katie Fite, conservation director of the Committee for the High Desert. "In many areas throughout these allotments, cows have beaten the public lands to dirt. Obviously, neither Lahontan cutthroat trout nor desert dace can survive in these conditions."
In its Final Allotment Evaluation for Soldier Meadows and Paiute Meadows, BLM concluded that livestock grazing is violates management objectives for both allotments. In such cases, the Federal Lands Policy and Management Act requires the BLM to revise its grazing management program "no later than the start of the next grazing year."
However, the BLM's current preferred grazing alternative calls for increased grazing levels on Soldier Meadows Allotment by as much as 58 percent in the coming years. The preferred alternative also extends the grazing season to 11 months from 8.5 months.
"BLM continues to subsidize the destruction of the American West." said Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP. "BLM has the science and authority to support the removal of livestock from these critical areas; now the agency just has to act." Remember, these ranchers are not paying their own way. They rely on the continued benevolence of the American public through subsidies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently issued a Biological Opinion which concludes that increased grazing, "will . . . likely result in more extensive habitat damage and adversely affect desert dace and adversely modify designated critical habitat."
"Now is the time to act," said Tucci. "Otherwise it will be too late."
TAKE A LOOK (.doc) at the legal Complaint filed on Soldier Meadows.
Western Watersheds Project and the Committee for the High Desert have sued the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management for failing to protect bull trout habitat in the Jarbidge River watershed and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest of southern Idaho and Nevada.
"Just last week, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service reiterated the critical importance that suitable habitat plays in recovering bull trout," said Todd Tucci, staff attorney for the Land and Water Fund of the Rockies, which represents the conservation groups. "Yet, the BLM and Forest Service continue to permit livestock grazing and other actions that destroy bull trout habitat."
Bull trout are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. However, the USFS and BLM continue to authorize livestock grazing and other activities in the Jarbidge watershed and Humboldt-Toiyabe NF without first consulting with FWS as required by the ESA.
"The Forest Service and BLM are turning their backs on bull trout in violation of ESA," said Tucci. "They have made no effort to insure that their actions comport with ESA requirements. This suit is intended to insure that the agencies err on the side of caution when permitting grazing, water diversions and other agricultural practices that may affect bull trout."
The lawsuit alleges that the BLM and Forest Service failed to consult with FWS, as required by ESA, over the impacts on bull trout of the Jim Bob Pipeline, a massive water diversion from Jim Bob Creek. The pipeline takes 95 percent to 100 percent of the water from the creek, a tributary of the Jarbidge River.
WWP and CHD also maintain that the agencies violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to review adequately the environmental impacts of livestock grazing prior to issuing new grazing permits.
"The Forest Service has made virtually no effort to assess the impacts of grazing within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest," said Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP.
The Forest Service is required to complete by the end of 2002 environmental assessments examining the impacts of grazing on 65 allotments totaling millions of acres of public lands within Humboldt-Toiyabe NF. To date, they have completed one assessment.
Scientific studies show that livestock grazing degrades aquatic habitat by removing riparian vegetation, destabilizing streambanks, widening stream channels, lowering water tables, increasing soil erosion and altering water quality.
"The watershed and national Forest include some of the most breathtaking scenery and high-elevation habitat in the West," said Katie Fite, conservation director CHD. "Unfortunately, the BLM and the Forest Service are allowing ranching corporations to trash these areas and push Jarbidge bull trout to the brink of extinction."
The Jarbidge River originates high in the rugged Jarbidge Mountains of northeastern Nevada within Humboldt-Toiyabe NF. The 46-mile river basin contains 313,000 acres of public lands.
Humboldt-Toiyabe NF comprises 6.3 million acres of public lands. Nearly 50 percent of these lands lie within recognized grazing allotments, which serve as public feedlots for more than 100,000 head of sheep and cattle.
WWP, CHD and other conservation groups contend that the BLM and Forest Service have long failed to place proper protective standards on riparian areas. The result is the continued destruction and loss of essential habitat essential for redband trout, Columbia spotted frog and sage grouse. Such standards would affect nearly all livestock grazing permittees in the Jarbidge watershed and Humboldt-Toiyabe NF.
"All the public wants is for the agencies to consider bull trout and the condition of the public lands prior to permitting a free-for-all on our natural heritage," said Tucci.