Dueling studies

  Will an injunction prohibiting grazing on eastern Oregon's Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla national forests devastate the local economy? Yes, says Oregon State University economist Fred Obermiller. No, says Pacific Rivers Council, the environmental group whose lawsuit forced the injunction to protect habitat needed by endangered salmon. The dueling studies respond to a July federal court ruling which found that the Forest Service failed to consider the potential impacts of grazing and other ongoing activities on the endangered Snake River chinook salmon (HCN, 8/8/94). Obermiller's study, commissioned by the Wallowa County Court, determined that if all 8,000 cows were kicked off the Wallowa-Whitman by Sept. 1, ranchers would lose more than $3 million, largely because they would immediately have to sell livestock at a loss. The Forest Service ordered just over 200 cows off the forest and shifted some 1,000 others to less sensitive pastures within the forest. The Pacific Rivers study, prepared by ECO Northwest, a Eugene, Ore., consulting firm, says Obermiller failed to consider that some cattle will stay on the forests and that most ranchers won't have to sell off livestock early. Any savvy rancher would have anticipated the injunction and made other arrangements to pasture livestock on private lands, say the authors of the 20-page rebuttal. To obtain Economic Consequences of an Injunction to Protect Salmon Habitat on the Wallowa-Whitman and Umatilla National Forests, or Obermiller's report, contact the Pacific Rivers Council, P.O. Box 10798, Eugene, OR 97440 (503/345-0119).

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