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for people who care about the West

Cows aren't "wild and scenic'

 


For the second time in six months, a federal judge has slammed grazing on public lands. Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Ancer Haggerty ruled that grazing was a "non-point source" of pollution, forcing Oregon cattlemen to comply with the federal Clean Water Act (HCN, 10/28/96).


Now, he's ordered cattle off parts of southeastern Oregon's Donner und Blitzen River. The ruling came after a coalition of environmental groups sued the Bureau of Land Management for failing to adequately protect and enhance nearly 75 miles of the river designated wild and scenic under federal law.


Haggerty's decision prohibits grazing along 40 miles of the river until the BLM produces a new management plan and environmental study assessing the effects of grazing on riparian areas, said attorney Peter Frost of the National Wildlife Federation. That process could take years, he said.


BLM officials say the judge overlooked their recent efforts to control grazing along the Donner und Blitzen. "We shortened the season of use on the stream and lowered the cattle numbers," said Jim Buchanan, a range manager for the BLM Burns District. "We've done some fencing. All of that wasn't taken into account."


The ruling could become a wake-up call to any federal agency that administers a designated wild and scenic river, attorney Frost said. There are 47 such rivers in Oregon, and environmentalists may push to apply the grazing restriction to wild and scenic waterways in other states, he said. And if the BLM appeals and the case ends up in a higher court, Frost added, the final decision could apply across the West.


* Danielle Desruisseaux