Four days ago WWP's Greenfire Preserve welcomed the arrival of the first foal of 2004. Born to the small wild horse herd that winters at the Preserve, the dark red foal was up within an hour and now is gamboling around the east side of the river with the elk and deer. Other mares in the five horse herd appear to be expecting as well and should foal before the herd moves to spring pasture on WWP's Bradshaw Basin allotment to the east on public lands where the largest wild horse herd in Idaho is found (about 175 horses).
On February 26, 2004 Federal District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled in favor of Western Watersheds Project and against the Bureau of Land Management in a significant victory for public access to federal government documents under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).
Judge Winmill dismissed the BLM's denial of WWP's requested fee waiver under the FOIA for hundreds of BLM documents which the agency was trying to force WWP to pay large sums to process and copy. Under the FOIA, Congress has directed federal agencies to provide public documents at little or no cost when the distribution of those documents to a non-profit group is determined to be intended to educate and inform the general public. Judge Winmill denied all the BLM's claims that WWP was not capable and had no intention of disseminating the information derived from the documents and granted WWP a full fee waiver in keeping with the intent of Congress.
This victory will go a long way toward the ending of a recent tactic by federal land management agencies to attempt to prevent access to public documents by forcing non-profit groups to pay exorbitant fees.
The FOIA case decision can be reviewed at the following URL: http://www.id.uscourts.gov/wconnect/wc.dll?usdc_racer~get_case_jb~4:3-cv...
WWP had excellent legal representation on this case by attorney Todd Tucci of Advocates For the West's Boise, Idaho office. Thank you Todd!
On Monday March 8, 2004 Western Watersheds Project joined with our sister organization, the Oregon Natural Desert Association (http://www.onda.org), to bring a lawsuit in federal District Court in Portland, Oregon against the Bureau of Land Management.
The law suit alleges the BLM illegally withheld action to change management in the Louse Canyon Management Area of southeast Oregon. The BLM's own regulations, the Fundamentals of Rangeland Health (43 C.F.R. 4180), require livestock management changes before the next grazing season when livestock are determined to be the cause of failure.
The Louse Canyon Area is located adjacent to Idaho and Nevada in the southeast corner of Oregon in a landscape dominated by the elaborate rhyolite canyons of the Owyhee River watershed. The BLM's recent assessment of the area which encompasses over 500,000 acres is quite lengthy (several hundred pages) and quite revealing. The BLM determined that standards were not being met, and livestock were the cause of the failure, on 6 of 21 pastures in the LCGMA. These 6 pastures account for approximately 220,155 acres of public lands, which is about 42% of the 523,000 acres of land the LCGMA encompasses. The PFC results are equally shocking: Close to 50% of the streams in the LCGMA are not meeting Standard 2 (Watershed Function-riparian/wetland), with 43% Functioning at Risk, Trend Not Apparent, 5 reaches Functioning at Risk, Downward Trend, and 3 reaches Not Functioning. In addition, 75% of the meadow/wetland complexes in the LCGMA are not functioning due to livestock grazing.
WWP and ONDA are confident that Judge Garr King of Oregon's federal District Court will find in our favor, and that the BLM will be obliged to change management in significant ways as a consequence.
For those interested in the fundamental failures of the BLM in this large area of public lands, more information can be found at this URL: http://www.or.blm.gov/vale/standards_and_guides_evaluations.htm
WWP and ONDA are ably represented in this lawsuit by Mac Lacey, ONDA staff attorney at ONDA's Portland office. Thank you Mac!
WWP has initiated a new web site to solicit rental business for WWP's Greenfire House which is located next to the East Fork of the Salmon River in central Idaho on WWP's 432 acre Greenfire Preserve.
Readers who might be interested in renting the Greenfire House with its five bedrooms and three bathrooms can now review photos of the house and rental time availability on an easy to use calendar on the site.
The site is located at this URL: http://www.choice1.com/greenfire.htm?CID=14702
Provision of this rental web site to WWP has been generously provided by 1st Choice Vacation Rentals ( http://www.choice1.com/ ) which offers rental information on more than 5000 vacation properties around the world.
Readers are invited to join WWP staff, board and members on Saturday April 3, 2004 for an all day pole fence relocation effort at the Greenfire Preserve.
This work will continue fence relocation started last fall. The buck and pole fence on the Preserve is being relocated from the river's edge to the perimeter of the property in an ongoing effort to remove wildlife unfriendly wire fencing on the property. Wildlife migration gaps are provided in the fence as it is relocated thereby assuring winter access for elk, antelope, deer and bighorn sheep to forage on the 400 acres.
Please contact the WWP office in Hailey (208-788-2290) if you wish to join us for this rewarding work.
In an ongoing process of updating the WWP web site, on February 28, 2004 WWP initiated a new home page (http://www.westernwatersheds.org) with associated slide shows of native western wildlife and the Greenfire Preserve.
Check out this new interface, and let us know what you think.
On Saturday evening February 28, WWP inaugurated our new headquarters office in the E.G. Willis Building in Hailey. Nearly 100 people joined for food, libations and excellent music provided by wonderful Wood River Valley Musicians, Paul Smith and Al Yates.
Special thanks are due to Teri Stewart-Curtis, Mandy Loving, Faith and Jan Wellman, Bill McDorman and all who attended the party.