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Know the West

Grazing allotment in hot water

  Oregon environmental groups sued the Malheur National Forest May 11 for violating the Clean Water Act on a grazing allotment along the John Day River near Camp Creek. The groups say grazing has destroyed vegetation along river banks, causing water temperatures on the John Day to hit 75 degrees, seven degrees above the state standard and fatal to fish, reports the Associated Press. "It's either cows or salmon. The choice is clear," says Bill Marlett of the Oregon Natural Desert Association, which filed the suit along with half a dozen other sports and conservation groups. Marlett says the groups warned the Forest Service in March they would sue if water temperatures remained high, but the agency did nothing. The lawsuit argues that the Forest Service is violating a provision of the federal Clean Water Act that gives states the authority to set temperature standards for rivers. The groups have asked the court to require the Forest Service to obtain a state water quality permit before allowing further grazing on the allotment. If the environmental coalition wins, Marlett adds, they may launch a nationwide campaign demanding all forests obtain similar permits.