Ore. Environmentalists File Suit Against Cattle Grazing On Public Lands

US - Environmentalists are making a new attempt to reduce the number of cattle on federal land in the Columbia River Basin and perhaps elsewhere in the West, arguing that federal anti-pollution laws should be applied to grazing permits.
calendar icon 8 May 2007
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A federal suit filed last week makes a test case out of a permit issued to Bill Colvin, 66, a rancher along a tributary of the John Day River in Eastern Oregon.

The aim is to get more streamside vegetation, cooler rivers and more steelhead and other threatened fish, a backer of the suit said.

Environmentalists have long argued that cattle and sheep trample and eat the vegetation along Western streams, which means streams get warmer as they flow without shade and carry more sediment from erosion -- both conditions that hurt fish.

But their efforts to increase regulatory pressure on grazing have often been rebuffed.

Ranchers argue that they're using land that can't produce crops and grazing doesn't cause the damage that environmentalists allege.

Public lands are an integral part of many Western livestock operations, with ranchers combining privately held land with tracts they lease from the government.

Colvin estimates that he'd have to cut his Grant County herd of 400 Hereford and Angus beef cattle in half should the environmentalists win, but neither side had an overall estimate of how the suit could affect grazing in the John Day watershed, the Columbia Basin or the West.

In the suit, seven environmental groups based in Oregon and the West have resurrected an argument thought to have been put to rest in the 1990s.

Source: Daily Herald
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