Pole Fence Relocation Project At Greenfire Preserve A Big Success And WWP Sues the Bureau Of Land Management (Again)

Online Messenger #77

A Successful Greenfire Preserve Fence Relocation Party

Western Watersheds Project would like to extend thanks to the hard working crew that spent the weekend of April 3 and 4 doing heavy labor to relocate over a quarter mile of a buck and pole fence away from the East Fork of the Salmon River to the perimeter of the Greenfire Preserve.

The relocation will ensure easier access to the river for wildlife while preventing neighboring cattle from entering the preserve. The pole fence is much more wildlife friendly than the old barbed wire perimeter fence, and wildlife gaps were included in the project for wintering deer, elk and bighorn sheep.

WWP extends appreciative thanks to the following hardworking volunteers for this project: Ann Down, Louise and Bob Wagenknecht, Dale Grooms, Debra Ellers, Tom Sedgwick and Molly Connors (who drove all the way from Bend, Oregon to take part!), Stan and Jill Jasper,Joyce Harvey-Morgan,Jennifer and Damon Anderson, Jon Marvel, Stew Churchwell and Margo Nelson.

A special thanks goes to Patrick Csizmazia who provided the use of his 20' open trailer and 1 ton pick-up truck for hauling sections of the fence to their new location and to Susan Rahman who brought all the food needed for the weekend to the Greenfire House and prepared all the meals for the hungry workers.

Patrick, Stan, Debra and Dale also worked hard to remove the massive log jam at the Greenfire bridge over the river where the in-river concrete pillar was under risk of failure in a potential heavy spring run-off because of the log jam which built up last year in high water.

Thanks to all!

LEARN MORE about Greenfire Preserve.

Western Watersheds Project And Two Other Conservation Groups Sue BLM Over Secret Grazing Settlement

Here is WWP's News Release sent out April 7, 2004 about WWP's Latest Court Action Against The BLM.

Western Watersheds Project and two other Idaho conservation groups have filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Land Management and Glen Secrist, BLM's Lower Snake River district manager, over a secret deal Secrist made with ranchers that will increase grazing on the Hardtrigger Allotment in the Owyhee Resource Area of southwestern Idaho.

Joining WWP in the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Boise, are Idaho Birdhunters and the Ada County Fish and Game League. All three groups have long been involved in work to improve management of public lands and streams on the allotment.

In response to a previous lawsuit, the BLM in 1999 conducted a review of ecological conditions on Hardtrigger. The agency determined, in no uncertain terms, that grazing had severely damaged streams and wildlife habitat on the allotment and ordered sharp reductions in grazing levels in order to reverse decades of livestock impacts.

WWP recently learned that in August 2003, the BLM reversed its decision in a secret settlement reached with ranchers. The deal was brokered by Secrist, who served as an expert witness for Owyhee ranchers in the previous lawsuit, before he was appointed to his BLM post under the Bush Administration. Conservationists and the general public were excluded from participation in the settlement.

"Science and the BLM's own findings demonstrate conclusively that livestock grazing is taking a terrible environmental toll in the Owyhees," said Russ Heughins of Idaho Birdhunters and the Ada County Fish and Game League. "Hunters and fishermen see this destruction too. We simply cannot stand by and let ranchers dictate how the public lands are to be managed, without any public oversight."

"The role played by Glen Secrist is especially troubling," added Jon Marvel, executive director of WWP. "He has been a hired gun for Owyhee ranchers and is now in charge of managing public lands. Rather than fulfill his duties in the public trust, he is abusing his position to broker secret deals with ranchers."

The conservation groups contend that the BLM's new grazing scheme violates the provisions of the Owyhee Resource Management Plan. The RMP requires that all grazing decisions across the Owyhee Resource Area (1) improve unsatisfactory watershed health and conditions on all areas; (2) prevent the potential for future accelerated soil erosion problems; (3) improve riparian-wetland areas to attain proper function and satisfactory conditions; (4) improve native rangeland species to attain site potential; (5) improve perennial stream/riparian areas to attain satisfactory conditions to support native fish; and (6) manage special status species and habitats to increase populations. The new grazing scheme will not fulfill any of these requirements, the groups note.

The Hardtrigger Allotment comprises 21,588 acres of BLM lands about 10 miles south of Marsing, Idaho, The allotment is principally a sagebrush-steppe ecosystem, a unique terrain known for its fragile desert landscape and abundant biological diversity. Several special status species occur within the allotment, including sage grouse, California bighorn sheep, pygmy rabbits, western burrowing owls, northern harriers, long-billed curlews, yellow warblers and western toads.

The allotment provides year-round habitat for mule deer and vital habitat for pronghorn antelope, California quail and a variety of raptors and other non-game birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and carnivores.

"The federal courts have ruled time and again over the past five years that grazing levels in the Owyhees are too high and are causing enormous harm to fish and wildlife," said Todd Tucci, a staff attorney with Advocates for the West, representing the conservation groups. "For BLM to sidestep these rulings - not to mention its own findings - is appalling, and we believe the courts will not look kindly on these actions."