Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Oregon ranch claims grazing prohibition encourages juniper, wildfire

Mateusz Perkowski

An Oregon ranch is challenging the federal government’s decision to eliminate grazing on more than 8,000 acres of public land to study vegetation. Cahill Ranches of Adel, Ore., has filed a complaint alleging the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s decision will encourage juniper encroachment and wildfires while harming sage grouse populations. “Eliminating grazing is not necessary to prevent irreparable damage to sage grouse or sage grouse habitat and the best available science shows that eliminating management will increase the risk of loss of habitat from rapidly spreading and intense wildfire and juniper expansion,” the lawsuit said. A representative of BLM said the agency doesn’t comment on pending litigation. Rangeland conditions within the 8,282-acre Sucker Creek pasture have been determined to be in good health by the BLM, whose decision to re-authorize grazing in the area for 10 years drew no objections from environmental groups, the complaint said. The agency has also already conducted a juniper research project in the area, the complaint said. Cahill Ranches postponed juniper removal on its property between 2007 and 2014, providing the BLM with a “control area” for comparison with areas where the invasive trees were removed. After the conclusion of the study, which determined sage grouse reproduction and survival improved in areas treated for juniper, Cahill Ranches resumed removing the trees from its property. The BLM’s decision to halt grazing in the pasture to study the natural development of vegetation is thus unnecessary, particularly since it is near two federal refuges where grazing is already prohibited, according to the plaintiffs...more

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