SUBLETTE COUNTY, Wyo. – The US Forest Service announced yesterday it will reauthorize grazing in the Upper Green River Rangeland. The final record of decision was signed and released yesterday.
The project allows for continued cattle and horse grazing on 170,643 acres in the Upper Green River watershed. Grazing cattle and horses in the region began under Forest Service supervision in the early 1900s but recently several environmentalist groups have called into question the practice due to grizzly bear conflicts and habitat degradation for endangered and at-risk species like cutthroat trout and sage grouse.
District Ranger Rob Hoelscher admitted it was a tough decision bound to cause groaning on both sides as he selected Alternative 3—a modified grazing management plan that cuts the number of livestock on some allotments and calls structural improvements top be made in others in order to separate livestock from wildlife.
“Crafting this decision was not easy. On the one hand, some want hard and fast direction and consequences. Permittees on the other hand desire flexibility for their operations,” Hoelscher said. “I believe this decision does a bit of both while meeting the requirements of our land management plan.”
But environmental groups like Western Watersheds Project say the amount of grizzly bear and wolf depredation alone should call for more drastic measures. The watershed is also home to Colorado River cutthroat trout, various amphibians, sage grouse, as well as significant populations of elk, moose, pronghorn, and mule deer.
Where is the Upper Green?
The project area is located approximately 30 miles northwest of Pinedale in the Pinedale Ranger District of the Bridger-Teton NF, mostly in Sublette County. The project area encompasses the headwaters of both the Green River drainage of the Colorado River System and the Gros Ventre River drainage of the Snake/Columbia River Basin System.
The Gros Ventre River is designated a Scenic River and the Green River, Roaring Fork River, and Tosi Creek are eligible for Wild and Scenic River designations. Portions of the Gros Ventre and Bridger Wildernesses are located in the project area (12,447 acres and 5,371 acre, respectively). State and private lands lie adjacent to the southern portion of the project area and private land is also located inside the project area boundary. The northern boundary of the project area is near the Continental Divide, which separates the Bridger- Teton and Shoshone National Forests.
Six allotments comprise the project area— Badger Creek, Beaver-Twin, Noble Pastures, Roaring Fork, Wagon Creek, and the Upper Green River. Currently 21 different term grazing permit holders are authorized to graze approximately 9,089 cow/calf pairs or yearlings, and includes 47 horses, at $1.87 a month for each cow with a calf from June 14 to October 15.
In making the final decision, Hoelscher considered the environmental analysis, public comment, consultation with cooperators and federal agencies, as well as discussions from pre-decisional administrative review or objection processes. He balanced environmental concerns with a tradition of grazing now well over a century old.
“Grazing is an appropriate use of the National Forest and is important to the community economically and socially,” Hoelscher noted.
One example of the modification in the final decision is to invite all interested parties to attend pre-grazing season annual meetings. It is hoped the effort will help ensure that future monitoring results, discussion of issues and development of solutions can be considered in a collaborative way.
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