GUEST opinion

Jun 12, 2009
by WLJ

GUEST opinion

A rancher´s view of Western Watersheds Project

For the second time in just over a year, the Western Watersheds Project (WWP) has filed a lawsuit against the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to try and stop pilot grazing programs on WDFW land. It was in January 2008 when the WWP filed a lawsuit against WDFW to stop a 30-day pilot grazing project on the Whiskey Dick area outside of Ellensburg, WA. According to WDFW documents, this pilot grazing plan was put in place to have cattle remove older grasses that would then in turn increase growth of more nutritious grasses for elk in the area. WWP won their lawsuit that was filed in January 2008 against WDFW; therefore, local Ellensburg cattle rancher Russ Stingley had to pull his cattle off of the Whiskey Dick area. According to Stingley, WWP had their own agenda at heart and they really didn’t think about other findings that showed cattle grazing to be helpful to the environment and wildlife.

“They don’t care about science; their agenda is to have all cattle off all public lands,” Stingley said. Fast forward to May 2009 and now WWP has filed their second lawsuit against WDFW to stop another pilot grazing project on the Pintler Creek area in Asotin County.

According to WDFW 2009 pilot grazing plan for Pintler Creek, there are two main goals in this co-op effort between WDFW and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association (WCA). The first goal is to improve forage for deer and elk while maintaining or enhancing ecological integrity, and the second goal is to support an operational and economically viable livestock grazing operation.

Washington rancher and former WCA President Jim Sizemore doesn’t feel WWP should be worried about the grazing practices that were set forth by WDFW or WCA. “Really, the WWP shouldn’t be concerned about the grazing practices on the Pintler Creek area. The WDFW and ranchers both monitor the area so well and gather so much data while grazing on Pintler Creek they will know when it’s time to take the cattle off,” Sizemore says. According to Jennifer Quan, the lands division manager for WDFW, ranchers must move their cattle off the Pintler Creek area at a moment’s notice.

“Due to all of the monitoring that is taking place, WDFW officials will know exactly when they have reached the goals for the Pintler Creek area that are stated in the 2009 pilot grazing plan,” said Quan. Ranching is tough enough in today’s current economical times for local ranchers and having a group that doesn’t even have an office in Washington state try to stop grazing practices makes things even tougher. Furthermore, does WWP even have a person on their staff that is qualified enough to evaluate grazing programs in Washington state? WWP needs to take a step back and realize that ranchers and WDFW work hand in hand to make sure these grazing practices are helping the environment and not ruining it. What WWP is doing is ruining a viable and economical grazing practice that will help bring steaks to the dinner table. Ranching not only brings food to the table, it also brings money into Washington state. According to Washington Department of Agriculture, the cattle industry accounted for $581 million of the $9.3 billion of food that was exported out of the state.

If WWP really does feel that cattle ranchers grazing on public lands is an environmental mishap, maybe they should look at the slogan for WCA, “Cattle ranchers, the original environmentalist.” — Jay Renwick, Intern, Washington Cattlemen’s Association [Note: The utilization targets were met on both WDFW pastures in Asotin County and cattle were removed by May 28.]