Western Watersheds Project says it will sue to keep cattle out of Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area in Washington

I posted an earlier story about the plant to dump cattle on this rare ungrazing wildlife area owned by Washington state. March 23, 2007. Sweetheart deal in Washington State will dump cattle on criticial state ungrazed wildlife area.

One has to wonder what overcame Washington’s governor to sign onto this pointless destruction. The cattle lobby will never vote for her.

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Note here is a little info on the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area. Seattle P-I.

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The Western Watersheds Project has sent a 60-day notice to the state that they will sue to keep cattle out of the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area. Here is their news release.

March 26, 2007

Western Watersheds Project Sends a 60 Day Litigation Notice Letter Under The
Endangered Species Act To The Washington Department Of Fish And Wildlife In
Regard To Proposed Cattle Grazing In The Whiskey Dick And Asotin Wildlife Areas
In Eastern Washington.

Bob Tuck: 509-945-7250
Dr. Donald Johnson: 509-923-9367
Dr. Steve Herman: 360-894-0751

Western Watersheds Project (WWP), a regional conservation organization, has sent
the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) a 60-Day Notice Letter,
notifying the Director, Jeff Koenings, of an impending lawsuit under the
Endangered Species Act challenging proposed cattle grazing in the Whiskey Dick
Wildlife Area on the Columbia River near Ellensburg and the Pintler Creek unit
of the Asotin Wildlife Area near Asotin, Washington.

The cattle grazing proposal for the Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area would reintroduce
privately-owned cattle to lands where they were removed over a quarter century
ago so the land could recover. WDFW owns tens of thousands of acres purchased
specifically for fish and wildlife habitat. In many cases federal dollars helped
pay for these important wildlife areas.

The Whiskey Dick and Asotin Wildlife Area units proposed for cattle grazing
include thousands of acres of shrubsteppe ecosystem, one of the most endangered
landscapes in the American West. A combination of sagebrush and native
bunchgrasses, this habitat supports a number of endangered and declining
species, including sage grouse and the loggerhead shrike. Many species of birds
are endemic to shrubsteppe habitats and cannot survive elsewhere. In addition to
the sage grouse –which now number fewer than 1000 in Washington State – Brewer’s
sparrows, sage thrashers, sage sparrows are all shrubsteppe obligates wildlife
species. Endangered and rare mammals and fish –including pygmy rabbits, Chinook
salmon and bull trout- also depend on streams located on the Wildlife Areas.

The proposal to reintroduce cattle on these protected wildlife lands reverses an
existing trend of reducing grazing on Washington state lands, and contradicts a
policy the WDFW has followed in recent years. Less than ten percent of the
original shrubsteppe in Washington State remains intact. The proposal includes
drilling wells, building fences, and putting in additional cattle management
installations at public expense that will lead to the degradation of these
otherwise disappearing landscapes.

Dr. Steve Herman, an emeritus Faculty Member at Evergreen State College, who has
studied Washington shrubsteppe with his students for more than thirty years
says: “I watched while the WDFW grazed one of the best areas – the Sagebrush
Flat Wildlife Area – so abusively that much of it was physically destroyed. That
was the last place the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit was found. When that little
rabbit was almost gone, it was declared Endangered, and the cattle were finally
removed. The last surviving Washington pygmy rabbits were trapped and put into a
captive breeding project, where most of them died.”

“The Whiskey Dick Wildlife Area, a half hour from Ellensburg, is one of the
places where cattle, their waste products, fences, electric lines, wells,
pipelines troughs, and new roads are to be reintroduced. This is an area of
unmatched beauty, especially for spring wildflowers”, Herman said. “Losing it to
cattle would be a tragedy for all Washingtonians.”

Dr. Herman, also emphasizes “The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has
as one of its mastheads, ‘A Sound Stewardship of Fish and Wildlife” and in a
recent report that WDFW Director Koenings presented to the Fish and Wildlife
Increasing the number of cattle on state wildlife areas can only contradict and
erode that goal.”

Other WDFW lands targeted for grazing are the steep sloped canyon grasslands of
the Asotin-Pintler area near Clarkston-Lewiston. They are habitat for Mountain
Quail, and the threatened Spalding’s Catchfly, a rare native flower in the
carnation family. Threatened Steelhead, Chinook salmon, bull trout or other
native fish are found in many of the streams.

Domestic cattle grazing was terminated by biologists on many WDFW lands, due to
serious conflicts with fish and wildlife habitats. Cattle contribute to the
spread of noxious weeds and can trample steelhead eggs in streams. Cattle herds
often displace elk and other big game.

Fisheries biologist Dr. Don Johnson of Carlton, WA said: “This defies all
reason. Many of these areas were purchased as fisheries/salmon mitigation. Fifty
years ago, I hunted and studied range management in the Pintler Creek country,
and it was so steep that when the cows went out too early in the spring they
fell off the hills and killed themselves.”

Bob Tuck, a Consulting Fish and Wildlife Biologist from Selah, WA said:
“Department biologists aren’t making the decisions here. They are being ordered
to justify grazing, despite professional concerns. This has been kept very
quiet, and most of the public isn’t even aware it is taking place. This needs to
be halted and full public and scientific scrutiny applied. Putting cattle back
on these fragile shrubsteppe habitats defies any ecological or fiscal

WWP has also written a separate letter to Washington Governor Christine
Gregoire, requesting to discuss the situation and impending environmental losses
with her.




  1. kt Avatar

    This appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. Other Washington Wildlife Areas are said to be in the Crosshairs of the pact the Governor made with the Cattlemen. Invaluable recovering sagebrush habitats will be lost.

    Lands in Asotin-Pintler area are supposed to be managed as an enclave for steelhead. These lands were purchased largely with FEDERAL tax dollars, yet are being used as a political bargaining chip to try to curry favor with livestock interests in eastern Washington. Large amounts of BPA (Bonneville Power Admin) dollars go into operation/and or WDFW staff $$$ for these Wildlife Areas, too.

    You can always tell something politically charged is going down when you call government employees (in this case, WDFW Area biologists) and they are under orders to refer all phone calls on cattle grazing to the “state office”. That is the situation here. Top secret cow affairs …

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank God for the Western Watersheds Project! It looks like all the Washington state conservation groups don’t even know this sleazy deal has gone down.

    Here is a media story
    on the lawsuit. It’s amazing that the media to pick it up is a North Carolina TV Station!

    Where are the Washington state media??


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Ralph Maughan