Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Greens Demand Info on Sage Grouse Habitat

Environmentalists sued the Bureau of Land Management for information about the effect cattle grazing in Idaho and Nevada have on the greater sage grouse. Western Watersheds Project claims the BLM and Department of the Interior are way past their deadlines to respond to freedom of information requests about two livestock grazing allotments. The FOIA requests concern the Garat grazing allotment in the Owyhee Canyonlands of southwest Idaho and the Argenta allotment in northern Nevada. Both allotments provide habitat for important populations of sage grouse. "Western Watersheds Project ... requested the documents to further its objective of informing the public about ways in which BLM-authorized livestock grazing affects wildlife resources on BLM public lands, in particular the greater sage-grouse," the group says in its March 29 complaint. Western Watersheds senior staff attorney Kristin Reuther said grazing has a tremendous effect on sage grouse. "There are a lot of effects; I don't know where to start, but for example, when cows eat grass, they eat the tall grass that sage grouse use to hide," she told Courthouse News on Friday. Reuther said that when cattle trample the soil they spread cheatgrass, an invasive species that chokes native sagebrush ecosystems that are critical sage grouse habitat. Cheatgrass also provides fuel for wildfires, which destroys protective cover.  Grazing's effect on habitat loss and spread of cheatgrass was described in a 2013 article in the Journal of Applied Ecology. Western Watersheds says grazing allotments can include fencing and other barriers that affect sage grouse, and the Bureau is stonewalling its request for information...more

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