Idaho county braces for grazing reductions

Posted: Jan 30, 2013

Written by

ROCKY BARKER, Idaho Statesman
Idaho grazing

The four allotments are the first of 75 grazing permit renewals the BLM was ordered to conduct by U.S. District Judge B Lynn Winmill after a lawsuit by Western Watersheds Project, an environmental group that opposes grazing.

Three of the four allotments were not meeting BLM’s Idaho standards for rangeland health, a series of guidelines to ensure that the desert ecosystem is functioning. The standards help agency scientists determine that the native grasses and shrubs are healthy, that streamside areas and watersheds are thriving and that habitat for sage grouse and other endangered species is protected.

Ranchers will have 15 days to protest Monday’s decision. They are expected to have the support of groups such as the Idaho Cattle Association and of Idaho’s political leaders.

Gov. Butch Otter has developed a state sage grouse plan that uses the same rangeland health standards. But it allows ranchers to keep their cattle numbers stable as long as they take other steps — keeping cows out of streams and streamsides and away from key grouse habitat, for example — to improve the range. Otter’s staff has been critical of the BLM for taking the harsher position.

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