Monday, May 29, 2017

U.S. cattle grazing plan for Idaho monument draws criticism

Federal officials on Friday released a cattle grazing plan for central Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve that immediately came under fire from an environmental group. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s Final Environmental Impact Statement allows cattle grazing on nearly all of the roughly 275,000 acres it administers in the monument. The document stems from a federal lawsuit filed by the Western Watersheds Project citing concerns about sage grouse and a subsequent court ruling requiring the federal agency to come up with a new plan. Lisa Cresswell, the planning and environmental coordinator for the Twin Falls District of the BLM, said the document combined with the BLM’s 2015 Greater Sage Grouse Approved Resource Management Plan Amendment protects sage grouse habitat while allowing grazing in Craters of the Moon. “We were mostly trying to direct livestock grazing toward (seeded areas) and away from native sagebrush,” she said. Craters of the Moon contains ancient lava flows of rough and jagged rocks, but some areas not covered by the flows are suitable for cattle grazing. The plan reduces by 300 acres the amount of cattle grazing area compared with the previous plan, and it reduces the number of cattle by a small amount. That’s not enough of a change, said Greta Anderson, deputy director for Western Watersheds Project. “Our concerns that the BLM’s livestock plans will continue to contribute to sage-grouse decline within this National Monument are unresolved,” she said in an email to the Associated Press. Anderson also said that the sage-grouse Resource Management Plan Amendments that the BLM cites as providing sage grouse protections in the Environmental Impact Statement are themselves being challenged in court in a case that hasn’t been resolved...more

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