Here is the news release sent out by WWP today (May 16, 2005) announcing a new lawsuit against the Sawtooth National Forest's sheep grazing management:
MAY 16, 2005
Contacts: Laurie Rule: 208-342-7024 ext. #8 Jon Marvel: 208-788-2290 Dr. Randy Hermann: 208-726-9781
On Friday, May 13, 2005, conservation group Western Watersheds Project and Dr. Randall Hermann filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service, alleging that the agency's new grazing management plan covering over 150,000 acres of the Sawtooth National Forest violates federal law. The Plaintiffs claim that the Forest Service did not adequately assess the environmental impacts of sheep grazing within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and surrounding forest lands, and is allowing excessive grazing that will continue to harm fish and wildlife and conflict with recreation use within this renowned area.
The four grazing allotments at issue occur in or adjacent to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which is highly valued for its natural resources and recreation opportunities. These allotments contain habitat for bull trout, steelhead, and salmon, which are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act, as well as for sage grouse, wolves, and bighorn sheep. In addition, several of the streams in the allotments are eligible for designation as Wild and Scenic Rivers. Due to the natural scenery and diverse ecology of the area, the trails and campsites found throughout the allotments are popular with hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hunters.
The Forest Service acknowledges that sheep grazing in the area has damaged the streams and riparian areas, as well as the upland sagebrush habitat, and has caused conflicts with recreation users. Yet, according to Western Watershed Project's lawsuit, the new grazing plan fails to adjust levels of grazing across most of these allotments to address this harm. And the plan continues to allow sheep to graze areas that the agency has determined should not be grazed, without even conducting an analysis of the environmental consequences. "The Forest Service is allowing the status quo to continue in order to satisfy the interests of a few livestock owners, while fish and wildlife and the public suffer the consequences," stated Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project.
The lawsuit also alleges that the agency did not take a hard look at all of the environmental impacts from continued grazing in this renowned area. For instance, the agency denied any impacts would occur to bighorn sheep, despite the fact that the near-by population of bighorn has been decimated over the last fifteen years due to disease passed to them from domestic sheep. The Forest Service also quickly dismissed any impacts to human health arising from diseases carried by domestic sheep. Randy Hermann, a physician from Ketchum, Idaho who frequently recreates in the area, joined the lawsuit due to his concern about the risk to himself and others of contracting disease from sheep. "The Forest Service did not seriously consider the scientific and medical information that shows that sheep carry and can transmit dangerous diseases to humans," said Dr. Hermann.
According to Laurie Rule, attorney for Advocates for the West, who represents Western Watersheds Project and Dr. Hermann in this case, "To comply with federal law, the Forest Service must make changes in their grazing plan that will ensure protection of fish, wildlife, vegetation, and recreation resources. At the very least, it must thoroughly assess the environmental impacts of its decision. Because it has not done so, we are asking the Court to set aside the new grazing plan for these four allotments."