The Ketchum Ranger District is seeking public comment on a proposal to reduce sheep grazing in the Greenhorn Gulch area, where there are numerous trails popular with hikers, bikers and motorcycle riders.
A Notice of Proposed Action, released July 24, addresses permit renewals on three grazing allotments:
l The 3,600-acre Limekiln Allotment, which extends north from the Greenhorn Gulch trailhead. The proposed action would cut grazing on the allotment by almost half, from 850 ewe/lamb pairs to 465. The grazing season there is from June 1 through July 5.
l The 7,735-acre Kelly Mountain/Greenhorn Allotment, which extends south from the trailhead and over into Deer Creek. The allotment, which was used for cattle grazing until 2001, would be permanently retired, though trailing of sheep across the allotment would be allowed for one day in each direction.
l The 10,750-acre Shaw Mountain Allotment, about 15 miles west of Ketchum on both sides of Warm Springs Road in the vicinity of Dollarhide Summit. The proposed action would reduce grazing there from 1,350 ewe/lamb pairs to about 530 during the season from June 20 to Aug. 15.
In an interview, Ketchum Ranger District Range Conservationist Robert Garcia said the reductions on the Limekiln and Shaw Mountain allotments are proposed mainly due to recent, more accurate analysis of the forage available there and due to a reduction of aspen groves. He said cattle grazing on the Kelly Mountain/Greenhorn Allotment had become problematic since the Castle Rock Fire burned fences and watering troughs there in 2007.
“It’s a very difficult allotment to manage as cow/calf given our current standards and conditions,” Garcia said. “Our management direction consists of strict management of riparian areas, which this allotment has a lot of.”
Jon Marvel, executive director of Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project, which seeks to eliminate public-lands grazing, called the proposal “basically a good thing,” though he criticized it for not analyzing the impacts of guard dogs on trail users or the impacts of sheep on trail conditions.
Limekiln Allotment permit holder Mike Henslee said he believes grazing there does not have to be cut to be environmentally sustainable or to coexist with recreational use. He contended that sheep could be rotated more often and that some could be put onto empty allotments. He said the Forest Service “is just getting farther and farther away from one of their objectives, which is grazing.”
Henslee said continued reductions in allowed grazing numbers are bringing his business close to the point of unprofitability.
“Grazing has been part of this valley’s history,” he said. “I’d hate to see it go away.”
Despite his support for the plan, Marvel expressed disappointment that grazing on the three allotments was not being considered in conjunction with two other allotments that are between the Limekiln and Kelly Mountain/Greenhorn allotments to the east and the Shaw Mountain Allotment to the west.
“It ignores the cumulative impacts,” he said.
Garcia said grazing on each allotment is analyzed as its permit comes up for renewal.
An environmental assessment on the proposal is available on the Sawtooth National Forest website, www.fs.usda.gov/projects/sawtooth/landmanagement/projects. Comments can be sent to Kurt Nelson, Ketchum District Ranger, Box 2356, Ketchum, ID 83340. Comment deadline is Aug. 23.