As a consequence of WWP’s legal action filed in federal District Court in Boise in late September 2006, three Ranger Districts on the Sawtooth and Boise National Forests have withdrawn their decisions to authorize 10 year grazing permits on four grazing allotments on over 150,000 acres of public land in Idaho and Utah. WWP’s lawsuit challenged Forest Service compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for failure to carry out full environmental analysis of the actions and of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) for failure to have the decisions be in compliance with the respective Forest Plans.
WWP will be watching closely to see that any decisions that are reissued for these four allotments comply with the law.
The U.N.’s Food And Agriculture Organization (FAO) has just released an encyclopedic report on the the negative environmental impacts of livestock production across the world. Entitled Livestock’s Long Shadow. The report’s executive summary as well as the entire report can be reviewed and downloaded at this FAO web site:
Excerpts from the report are worth providing in some detail:
“ A new report from FAO says livestock production contributes to the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. Using a methodology that considers the entire commodity chain, it estimates that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport.”
The livestock sector is by far the single largest anthropogenic user of land. Grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth's terrestrial surface, while feed crop production requires about a third of all arable land. Expansion of grazing land for livestock is a key factor in deforestation, especially in Latin America: some 70 percent of previously forested land in the Amazon is used as pasture, and feed crops cover a large part of the reminder. About 70 percent of all grazing land in dry areas is considered degraded, mostly because of overgrazing, compaction and erosion attributable to livestock activity.
At the same time, the livestock sector has assumed an often unrecognized role in global warming. Using a methodology that considered the entire commodity chain (see box below), FAO estimated that livestock are responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, a bigger share than that of transport. It accounts for nine percent of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions, most of it due to expansion of pastures and arable land for feed crops. It generates even bigger shares of emissions of other gases with greater potential to warm the atmosphere: as much as 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, mostly from enteric fermentation by ruminants, and 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, mostly from manure.
Scientists usually tie their estimates of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming to sources such as land use changes, agriculture (including livestock) and transportation. The authors of Livestock’s long shadow took a different approach, aggregating emissions throughout the livestock commodity chain - from feed production (which includes chemical fertilizer production, deforestation for pasture and feed crops, and pasture degradation), through animal production (including enteric fermentation and nitrous oxide emissions from manure) to the carbon dioxide emitted during processing and transportation of animal products.
Livestock production also impacts heavily the world's water supply, accounting for more than 8 percent of global human water use, mainly for the irrigation of feed crops. Evidence suggests it is the largest sectoral source of water pollutants, principally animal wastes, antibiotics, hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures. While global figures are unavailable, it is estimated that in the USA livestock and feed crop agriculture are responsible for 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the nitrogen and phosphorus loads in freshwater resources. The sector also generates almost two-thirds of anthropogenic ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.
The sheer quantity of animals being raised for human consumption also poses a threat of the Earth's biodiversity. Livestock account for about 20 percent of the total terrestrial animal biomass, and the land area they now occupy was once habitat for wildlife. In 306 of the 825 terrestrial eco-regions identified by the Worldwide Fund for Nature, livestock are identified as "a current threat", while 23 of Conservation International's 35 "global hotspots for biodiversity" - characterized by serious levels of habitat loss - are affected by livestock production.”
The November election outcome returning the control of the House and the Senate to Democrats is a welcome one for WWP. Many of the new Congressional Committee Chairs will provide a far friendlier face for the protection of the natural world, and the defeat of Congressman Richard Pombo in California’s 11th District in particular will provide a sea change in Washington. Pombo had repeatedly advocated the sale of public lands and the gutting of the Endangered Species Act and other environmental laws.
His long arm even reached to WWP’s Greenfire Preserve where he attempted to sell at less than one tenth of actual real estate value 1000 acres of public land adjacent to the Preserve to a California Mining Company after WWP had won litigation to bring the decorative stone quarry operating there on public lands next to Greenfire into compliance with national environmental laws.