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Capitol Reef Cacti Deserve Protection!

Online Messenger #274

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Few people know that the National Park Service (“Service”) allows grazing on our most treasured public lands, but it’s true. There are thirteen Park units that allow commercial beef cattle operations, and these livestock can harm the very things the Park should be protecting.

This week, Western Watersheds Project (WWP) and Cottonwood Environmental Law Center filed a lawsuit against the Service for its failure to protect two species of rare cacti from cattle grazing in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. The agency has not analyzed the impacts of grazing or trailing on the endangered Wright fishhook cactus (Sclerocactus wrightiae) or threatened Winkler’s pincushion cactus (Pediocactus winkleri). Both species have low populations and are in danger of being trampled, killed, or otherwise harmed by Park-authorized livestock grazing. They are legally protected under the Endangered Species Act, but protection only extends as far as enforcement when it comes to rare plants.

The case is really pretty simple: The Service should consider the impacts of grazing to these rare plants before allowing it to continue, and, under its own founding laws, provide for the unimpaired enjoyment of future generations. If livestock impair the habitats of the cacti through soil destruction or direct trampling, it must not be allowed. It’s time the Service made an informed decision rather than simply renew the grazing permits in the Park.

The Service has known for some time that grazing has severely impacted native vegetation communities, and is also aware that cows can step on these rare cacti. Unfortunately, it looks like it might take the Court to tell the Service to make a decision about whether or not to allow ongoing grazing.

The case was filed by John Meyer at Cottonwood Environmental Law Center. Thank you John!

Read the complaint here.

See more photos of Capitol Reef National Park here, including pictures of private livestock in places even dogs aren’t allowed!

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