Bridger-Teton National Forest sued for failure to analyze new projects blocking the path of the pronghorn-

According to the Western Watersheds Project, the Bridger-Teton N.F. was talking up a good story how they were going the protect the “path of the pronghorn” which runs from the Wyoming desert, where they winter, northward to Jackson Hole where they summer. At the same time the local Forest Service office was cooking up plans to build a permanent corral, a holding pasture, and additional fencing at the confluence of Slate Creek and the Gros Ventre River, right in the middle of the pronghorn migratory path.

Pronghorn antelope - credit: Brian Ertz, WWP

“The Forest Service authorized the facilities pursuant to two internal ‘categorical exclusion’ decisions and deferred action on additional fencing in order to avoid [public] input and the need to conduct an alternatives and environmental analysis. ‘This isn’t allowed’ [under NEPA] said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who is representing Western Watersheds Project.”

I spoke with Jon Marvel, executive director of the Western Watersheds Project. He told me that Forest Service plans to build these structures would not block off the pronghorn  migration path, but that it would interfere.  He said that it’s the accumulation of small projects that eventually blocks the migration route, and that this project merited a lawsuit because in addition the Forest Service had violated the National Environmental Policy Act which prohibits an agency from breaking a large project that would require NEPA analysis into what seems like two or more smaller projects, and then claim that each was so small that there was no environmental impact of consequence to be analyzed.


View Path of the Pronghorn in a larger map

– – – – – –

Here is the full news release from the Western Environmental Law Center and the Western Watersheds Project.

Protecting the Path of the Pronghorn. Conservation groups defend ancient critical migratory corridor

Cheyenne, WY- Western Watersheds Project, represented by Western Environmental Law Center, has taken legal action to protect a 6,000-year-old, critical migratory corridor necessary for the survival of North America’s fastest land animal, the pronghorn. The groups allege that the Forest Service unlawfully authorized the building of structures for private livestock on the public lands, which have the potential to impede pronghorn migration and block the movement of other large mammals.

The structures — a permanent corral, holding pasture, and additional fencing – are to be located at the confluence of Slate Creek and the Gros Ventre River in Wyoming. This area is a critical link in the “Path of the Pronghorn,” an annual migration corridor for the species between the Upper Green River Valley (near Pinedale) and Grand Teton National Park. The Path of the Pronghorn is the longest remaining migration of any land mammal in the lower 48 states.

Numbering only a few hundred, this dwindling herd relies on the ancient Upper Green River Valley migration corridor for its very survival. In 2008, in recognition of the importance of this corridor to the pronghorn, the Forest Service designated this area as the nation’s first wildlife migration corridor.  At the time, former Forest Supervisor Kniffy Hamilton proclaimed, “This migration is an important part of Wyoming’s history and we want to do all we can to maintain it.”

But while Ms. Hamilton was announcing with much fanfare a plan to protect the “path of the pronghorn”, the agency was simultaneously authorizing the building of livestock facilities in the migration corridor behind closed doors, facilities it readily admits “have the potential to impede pronghorn movements through the corridor.”

The Forest Service authorized the facilities pursuant to two internal “categorical exclusion” decisions and deferred action on additional fencing in order to avoid input and the need to conduct an alternatives and environmental analysis. “This isn’t allowed” said Matthew Bishop, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center who is representing Western Watersheds Project. “The Forest Service can’t break its plans up into small, component parts in order to circumvent the law and avoid a meaningful environmental analysis. If it wants to authorize new facilities and other projects in the Path of the Pronghorn it must first take a hard look at the overall, cumulative impacts to the migration corridor.”

“We tried to get the agency to preserve unbroken landscapes to protect the ‘Path of the Pronghorn,’” said Jon Marvel, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Unfortunately, the Forest Service didn’t want to listen to the public, to other wildlife managers, or to science. Instead, they made an end-run around important environmental laws. We intend to hold them accountable.”

The “Path of the Pronghorn” is one of the longest large mammal migration corridors in North America, and spans over 100 miles. Numerous land management agencies, including the Forest Service, have signed a, “Pledge of Support for the Conservation and Protection of the Path of the Pronghorn.”

###

 

avatar
About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

2 Responses to Protecting the path of the pronghorn. Western Watersheds Project takes Forest Service to court

  1. avatar Cindy says:

    Ralph, do you know if there a various grazing permits in the area of the corral or does one of our old timers hold the entire place?

  2. avatar Cindy says:

    Actually now that I enlarge the map I am familiar with exactly where that is.

Calendar

November 2011
S M T W T F S
« Oct   Dec »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Quote

‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

%d bloggers like this: