Grazing reduction proposed
Sheep ranching focus
of environmental study
To get involved:
According to Kurt Nelson, Ketchum
District Ranger, the Forest Service is interested in public comments
regarding the North Sheep DEIS and proposed action.
"The public review and comment
period is open for the next forty-five days, ending May 10," he said.
"We are asking the public to provide us with specific facts or comments
that they feel we should consider as we make our decision regarding this
proposed action. It is important for us to know if we have adequately
addressed all of the issues involved in these areas of public
Copies of the document are
available online at
http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/sawtooth or by visiting a Sawtooth National
By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer
Due to increasing environmental
and recreation concerns, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing to curtail
one of the Wood River Valleyís most historic industries.
In its North Sheep Draft
Environmental Impact Statement, which was released for public review on
Monday, the Sawtooth National Forest and Sawtooth National Recreation
Area suggest a reduction of public land open to sheep grazing in four
Central Idaho management areas by roughly 20 percent.
In the document, released two
months behind schedule, the Forest Service proposes to eliminate sheep
grazing in Adamís Gulch in the Wood River Valley, lower Smiley Creek in
the Sawtooth Valley and several alpine cirques throughout the region.
Gooding rancher John Faulkner, one
of the sheep men who will be affected by the decision, said he is
concerned about the potential changes, but not overly so.
"I donít want to see it any
tougher than it is," he said. "Itís going to cut us somewhat. Iím sure
Meanwhile, Hailey activist Jon
Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, said he would
continue to push for complete elimination of sheep grazing in the four
"We will definitely appeal" if the
proposed changes are made, Marvel said.
Sheep ranching is an integral part
of the history of the Wood River Valley. In fact, Ketchum holds the
record for being the greatest sheep and lamb shipping station in Idaho,
and, for a time, ranked second only to Sydney, Australia, as the sheep
shipping capitol of the world.
But the number of sheep permitted
to graze in the Sawtooth National Forest has been on the decline since
the early 20th century. In 1907, 364,000 sheep were permitted to graze
on the forest. Today, there are fewer than 25,000 sheep, and those that
remain are coming under increasing scrutiny.
As the population of the Wood
River and Sawtooth valleys has increased, recreation-related conflicts
"We believe that our proposed
action addresses many natural resource issues found on these
allotments," said Sara Baldwin, Sawtooth National Recreation Area
ranger. "We also believe that the proposed actions reflect many of the
concerns that we have heard from the public, especially those who
recreate in some of these areas."
The 320-page draft document covers
four grazing allotments totaling 147,200 acres. The 63,561-acre Baker
Creek and 34,074-acre North Fork-Boulder Creek allotments are
administered by the Sawtooth National Forestís Ketchum Ranger District.
The 42,084-acre Smiley Creek and 7,494-acre Fisher Creek allotments are
administered by the SNRA.
Three ranching outfits run
livestock on the four allotments.
According to the draft document,
the Forest Service proposes to continue authorizing sheep grazing in the
subject areas, but land available for grazing will be reduced by
approximately 30,500 acres, primarily in the Adams Gulch area north of
Ketchum and in high-elevation zones that include sensitive landscapes
and mountain goat habitat.
The elimination of grazing in
Adams Gulch and several high-elevation areas will constitute an
approximately 36 percent reduction in acreage included in the Baker
Creek Allotment, Nelson said.
The draft document also cites two
additional alternatives: continued grazing under existing management
guidelines and an end to grazing in the area. The alternatives are
strikingly similar to those included in an environmental impact
statement the Forest Service released last summer to address cattle
grazing in the East Fork of the Salmon River drainage on the east slope
of the White Cloud Mountains.
Nelson and Baldwin said the
decision they are facing is not easy or simple.
"We will continue to listen
carefully to all interests," they said in a press release. "We do this
because we not only have legislated mandates to properly manage these
natural resources, but we care deeply about the effect that our
decisions have on the lifestyles and economic well being of all who use
and depend on the national forests."
Specifically, the preferred
alternative in the draft document proposes to close Adams Gulch to
livestock grazing to eliminate the potential for recreation conflicts
but allow ranchers to trail sheep through the drainage to reach other
Lower Smiley Creek would also be
closed to livestock grazing to eliminate concerns regarding fish and
wildlife habitat, but ranchers would continue to be allowed to trail
sheep through the area to the high elevation portions of the allotment.
High elevation terrain in Baker
Creek, Prairie Creek and the North Fork of the Big Wood River would be
Permanent corrals in Smiley Creek
and North Fork of Boulder Creek would be replaced with temporary
Livestock would be managed to
reduce the spread of noxious weeks.
An "adaptive management strategy"
would be implemented to achieve desirable grazing conditions.
According to the project summary,
monitoring is a key aspect of adaptive management.
"A monitoring plan has been
developed to track progress toward desired conditions Ö If monitoring
indicates the need for management changes, such changes will be
documented Ö If problems persist after two years of altered management,
further management changes will be made. If conditions remain
unsatisfactory after five years, the suitability of the allotment for
livestock grazing will be re-evaluated."
Conversely, if conditions are
deemed satisfactory, management could be changed to allow more use.
For his part, Faulkner sounded
laid back about the issue.
"As far as the grazing goes,
thereís no problem there," he said. "Itís just trying to get along with
recreationists. Thereís a lot of country there as long as they just let
us use it, and I think they will."