Sage Grouse/Grazing Economic Analysis study report available
Response to Western Watersheds Project request for interim grazing requirements
February 29, 2012
In September, 2011, the U.S. District Court of the District of Idaho ruled in favor of Western Watersheds Project (WWP) in a court case claiming the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act in approving the 2008 Pinedale Resource Management Plan (Western Watersheds Project vs. Salazar, No. 08cv516). While the BLM works to correct identified flaws, WWP has asked for interim grazing requirements to be implemented that could have significant impacts to grazing operations and the economies of Sublette and Lincoln Counties. Because of this, the Sublette County Commissioners and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association commissioned Ecosystem Research Group out of Missoula, Montana to do a study of the economic impacts should the court rule in favor of the interim grazing management requirements. That report is now available.
Western Watersheds Projects requests:
1. Exclude livestock grazing in sage grouse nesting and brood-rearing habitats from March 1 until after June 20, and remove livestock by August 1 of each year, with a mandatory goal o leaving at least 70% of the herbaceous production each year to form residual cover to benefit sage grouse nesting the following spring.
2. Prohibit twice-over grazing systems in sage grouse habitats, where livestock pass through an area twice in a grazing season (including trailing).
3. In sage grouse habitats, prohibit constructing new fences, order removal of unnecessary fences; and visually mark remaining fences to reduce sage grouse collisions with fences.
4. Prohibit vegetation treatments of so-called "decadent" sagebrush.
5. Prohibit new livestock water developments and any new rights-of-way for water developments or conveyances in sage grouse habitats (Western Watersheds Projet v. Ken Salazar 2012).
The report concludes that the reduction in use days "has the potential to significantly impact individual cattle ranching operations and the economic, cultural, and social character of the communities within the Planning Area."
The report also states that the restriction forbidding passing through twice through the Forest Service allotments, as currently happens with the Green River Drift (a ranching operation that has been going on for over 100 years, before the creation of the Forest Service and the BLM federal agencies themselves), would force ranchers to truck their cattle back to the home ranch, which would not be economically feasible. A likely scenario of the requirements, if put in place for multiple years, would be that many ranchers would not be able to sustain viable ranching operations without the allotments and might choose to cease their operations. Another consequence anticipated is that a number of ranchers would sell their ranches, subdivide for the more profitable residential developments, and result in the loss of large tracts of agricultural land, which could negatively impact sage grouse and other wildlife.
The report also indicates that if the grazing requirements were put in place for 1-5 years, the Sublette and Lincoln County regions could potentially lose as much as $9 million in cattle ranching output and over $15 million in total output. Employment would potentially be reduced by 100 cattle ranching and 175 total full-time equivalent positions."
If restrictions were implemented for longer than five years, ranchers that viewed them as vital to their operations would most likely discontinue operations and cease
Greater Sage-Grouse/Grazing Economic Analysis Ecosystems Research Group, February 17, 2012