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WWP Wins Closure of Grazing Allotment in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area!

Online Messenger #244

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After years of trying to convince the Sawtooth National Forest to protect a small allotment on the Salmon River, Western Watersheds Project received some unexpected good news in the form of a Closure Announcement for the Obsidian Cattle & Horse allotment!

The Obsidian Allotment encompasses 482 acres including 115 acres of riparian vegetation and 367 acres of upland sagebrush habitat in the Sawtooth Valley. It provides habitat for pronghorn, elk, moose, osprey, bald eagle, mule deer and wolves.  The stretch of the Salmon River that passes through the allotment is “critical habitat” for the Snake River sockeye, Chinook salmon, Snake River steelhead and Columbia River bull trout. The Obsidian Allotment was private land until 1974 when it was condemned and acquired by the Forest Service in order to remove the Obsidian townsite subdivision of about 80 lots deemed to violate the scenic purposes of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA).  Since that time the acquired lands were designated the Obsidian grazing allotment and permitted for domestic livesock.

In 2000 Valley Sun LLC acquired the allotment permit with the purchase of the Abatti Ranch (now the Greenfire Preserve). For five years WWP managed to have an agreement for non-use on the allotment as preferred applicant for the grazing permit but about 6 years ago the Forest Service refused to continue to allow non-use and since then the allotment has been vacant with no livestock grazing.

Over the intervening years there has been pressure on the SNRA to open the allotment for livestock grazing from several of the Challis area ranchers and the Forest Service initiated NEPA analysis on the allotment in 2012.

WWP toured the allotment with the Forest Service in July 2012 and strongly recommended closure but the subsequent scoping documents proposed that it be designated a forage reserve with the riparian lands along the Salmon River closed to livestock use.

It was with great surprise and delight when WWP learned of the revised final decision to close the entire allotment, remove wildlife-unfriendly fencing and promote education and visitation opportunities on the allotment instead. This Closure Announcement shows that even the Forest Service understands there are more important values than livestock on our public lands.

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