Ranchers seek to intervene in grazing suit

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Apr 11, 2005
by WLJ
Faced with the possibility of losing approximately 83,000 animal unit months from grazing permits on 11 national forests in California, officials with the California Cattlemen= s Association (CCA) recently announced plans to file for intervener status in a court case challenging revisions to federal grazing policy.

In February, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and several radical environmental organizations filed lawsuits seeking to reverse 2004 revisions to the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan Amendment (SNFPA). SNFPA is a United States Forest Service (USFS) planning document originally conceived by then President Bill Clinton= s administration and finalized in early 2001 governing the management of 11 national forests in California, which entails almost 11.5 million acres.

SNFPA originally sought to severely reduce grazing in the region, primarily via standards and guidelines intended to protect three species deemed A sensitive@ by the USFSC the Willow Flycatcher, Yosemite Toad and Great Gray Owl. However, late that year, regional forester Jack Blackwell initiated a review of SNFPA primarily focusing on unintended and severe impacts to grazing permittees in the region.

That review found little scientific justification for the original SNFPA standards, and a supplemental environmental impact statement was developed containing revised standards and guidelines intended to allow grazing to continue while giving equivalent levels of protection to sensitive species. The revised document was finalized in early 2004.

CCA officials last week said it is imperative that graziers fight the suits against the revised SNFPA because of the significant impacts that California cattle producers could face.

A We are intervening on behalf of the Forest Service in this issue, but on the basis that our members could be severely impacted by significant losses of grazing permit stocking rates,@ said Ben Higgins. A If these suits against the revised Sierra Nevada plan are successful we could lose a significant amount of grazing availability.@

Higgins reiterated that the original SNFPA would result in a loss of over 80,000 AUMs on the 11 national forests included under the act.

The request for intervener status was not yet filed as of press time last Thursday. Higgins said that it is likely, however, it will hit the court by the end of the month.

A We are well beyond contemplating this action,@ he said. A The process of gaining this status is well underway and we have already notified the Forest Service of our intentions and that a brief backing their decision will be filed on their behalf.@ C Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor


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