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WWP Wins Two Appeals on National Forests in Arizona and California

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Western Watersheds Project’s participation in the administrative processes on our National Forests paid off this week with two important victories, one on the Mendocino National Forest in California and another on the Tonto National Forest in Arizona.

Mendocino National Forest

In response to an administrative appeal filed by Western Watersheds Project and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), the Mendocino National Forest Supervisor has withdrawn her grazing decision for the Etsel Allotment on the Covelo Ranger District.  About half of Etsel Allotment is within the recently designated Yuki Wilderness Area and a 12 mile stretch of the Black Butte Wild and Scenic River forms the allotment’s northeastern border.  Etsel Allotment is home to many rare plants and animals including Northern Spotted Owls, Pacific Fishers, and threatened species of salmon.

The now-withdrawn decision was tied to flawed environmental assessment in which the Forest failed to consider the impacts of constructing new livestock developments in the Yuki Wilderness, among other concerns.  According to Supervisor Tune’s withdrawal letter, the Forest will issue a new schedule for environmental document revision and public comment early in 2013. This win marks our second victory on Mendocino National Forest this year.

Thanks for this successful appeal go to WWP California Director Dr. Michael J. Connor! Thank you, Mike!

Tonto National Forest

Western Watersheds Project also won its appeal of the Boneyback Allotment grazing decision on the Tonto Basin Ranger District of the Tonto National Forest. In that case, the Appeal Reviewing Officer reversed the District Ranger’s decision to authorize livestock grazing for failing to address cumulative impacts to sensitive wildlife species.

The Boneyback allotment is quite unique in that it has a perennial creek running through it, a rare and beautiful sight in central Arizona. The allotment provides critical habitat for spikedace and suitable habitat for two candidate species, the yellow-billed cuckoo and northern Mexican garter snake, as well as two special status species, the bald eagle and the lowland leopard frog. While the permittee had made some effort to keep livestock out of the riparian areas, the uplands were in bad shape. The now-overturned decision would have allowed nearly five times more cows to graze on the allotment than the recent actual use, contributing to deleterious impacts in the watershed.

Thanks for this victory go to WWP Arizona Legal Counsel Erik Ryberg!  Thank you, Erik!

Western Watersheds Project hopes that by increasing the scrutiny of grazing decisions, the Forest Service will start managing to improve the habitats of rare and imperiled plants and animals, prioritizing ecosystem integrity, and deemphasizing extractive uses that harm the many values of these public lands.

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