Grizzlies Get A Win On Upper Green

 

The Upper Green River alloment and Wind River Range beyond. Photo George Wuerthner 

The Upper Green River near Pinedale, Wyoming under the administration of the Bridger Teton National Forest (BTNF) is one of the most biologically important areas of the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Anyplace else, the Upper Green would be set aside as a national park based on its outstanding wildlife and scenic values.

The Green River is a major tributary of the Colorado River whose headwaters lie in the Wind River Range, Wyoming. Photo George Wuerthner 

The Upper Green is also the largest grazing allotment in the West. The Forest Service allows 17,000 cattle to graze the area, much to the detriment of the public’s wildlife, watersheds, and riparian areas.

Recently Western Watershed Project, Alliance for Wild Rockies and Uinta to Yellowstone won a lawsuit against the Forest Service for its failure to protect grizzly bears, as well as other wildlife.

The Bridger Teton National Forest plan for grazing on the Upper Green Allotment would permit up to 72 grizzlies to be killed in ten years. Photo George Wuerthner 

Under the recently adopted grazing plan, the Forest Service would allow up to 72 grizzlies to be killed over the next ten years. To make matters worse, the Forest Service put no limit on the number of female grizzlies that could be killed. Grizzlies are classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The court ruled that this decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Between 2010 and 2014 half of all grizzly deaths in western Wyoming occurred on the Upper Green Allotment. Since 1999, the Upper Green River Area had the highest lethal take rate for grizzly bears, with 37 deaths. In effect, the BTNF puts the welfare of the livestock industry ahead of the public’s wildlife. Even threatened wildlife has a lower priority on these public lands than private cattle.

Pronghorn that died when entangled in fencing. The occurrence of fencing is one consequence of public lands grazing. Photo George Wuerthner 

The Upper Green is home to elk herds and migration routes, pronghorn (and path of the Pronghorn), Colorado cutthroat trout, sage grouse, several sensitive amphibians, along with wolves and grizzlies.

Due to the abundance of wildlife, the Forest Service’s own management plan has designated 84% of the Upper Green as an area where wildlife is to be emphasized in policy decisions.

The court agreed that the current grazing allotment plan did not adequately protect grizzlies. “Nothing in the biological opinion or the incidental take statement evaluated whether the authorized 72 lethal grizzly bear takes could result in enough female takes to jeopardize the grizzly bear population in the project area,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Scott Matheson in the 53-page opinion.

“If, as the biological opinion states, survival of the species depends on ‘minimizing’ annual female grizzly bear mortality, it should at least have considered whether a female lethal take limit should be included,” Matheson,

As good as the court’s decision to uphold the lawsuit is, livestock grazing will be permitted to continue while the BTNF revises its grazing management plan to adequately protect grizzly bears.

GRAZING VANDALISM

However, for years the area has been vandalized by domestic livestock with the permission of the Bridger Teton National Forest.

A new report by Dr. John Carter of Uinta to Yellowstone and Jonathan Ratner of Western Watersheds confirms that the Bridger Teton National Forest essentially permits legalized damage to public resources.

Heavily grazed Upper Green River allotmen. Photo George Wuerthner

According to comparative plot utilization before and after grazing the researchers concluded: “Our results demonstrate that the Upper Green and Fisherman Creek allotments are overstocked based on our measures of average upland and riparian utilization using Paired Plots at 73.1 percent and 75.5 percent respectively. These far exceed the 50 percent utilization or allowable use standard required by the BTNF.”

In their report, the scientists noted: “Herbaceous and grass production was lower than the potential at all sites, with most in Poor Condition, producing less than 25% of potential.” The finding of 25% of potential means that 75% of the important forage plants that should be found on the site are missing or nearly absent.

That the BTNF allows any livestock grazing under such conditions is nothing less than criminal.

Upper Green area rested from grazing for five years. Photo George Wuerthner 

In effect, the forage that should be supporting native elk, pronghorn and other herbivores is being put into the belly of someone’s private livestock. This not only impacts the carrying capacity for elk and other wildlife, but these species are prey for wolves and grizzlies. So in effect, the BTNF is taking food out of the mouth of these predators as well.

Note the short “golf course putting green” stubble height on Upper Green allotment. Sage grouse need a minimum of 7 inches and ideally at least 10 inches of stubble after grazing. Photo George Wuerthner

The authors also noted that the stubble height (grass left after grazing) necessary for successful sage grouse nesting and brooding was absent from the majority of plots.

In addition, the researchers found that there was significant plant pedestalling, bare soil, and erosion—all indications of overgrazing.

Bluebunch wheatgrass was nearly absent even though it should be a dominant bunchgrass. Not surprisingly it is a species sensitive to livestock grazing pressure and decreases with overgrazing and lack of rest.

Dr John Carter and Jonathan Ratner on he Upper Green allotment. Photo George Wuerthner 

To give an example of the destructive grazing permitted by the BTNF, Carter, and Ratner found that the Mosquito Lake plot produced 2842.1 lb/acre in ungrazed plots, while grazed residuals in the same area averaged 460.7 lb/acre for utilization of 84.3%.

Though livestock grazing on public land is a privilage not a right, the Bridger Teton National Forest clearly put the interests of private businesses ahead of the public’s right for abundant wildlife, clean water, and healthy riparian areas on its property. Given the BTNF past obsequious deferential treatment of livestock interests over the public’s interest, I do not have much hope that the agency will do more than window dressing its court-ordered grazing allotment revisions.

The best outcome for the Upper Green Allotment would be to implement the Voluntary Grazing Permit Retirement Act and eliminate livestock from the area.

At least the public can be grateful that groups like Western Watersheds, Alliance for Wild Rockies, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection are fighting to protect the public interest, and more importantly giving a voice to the voiceless wildlife that continues to be short-charged by the BTNF.

Comments

  1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
    Jeff Hoffman

    The fact that ranchers and their cattle get priority over native wildlife, ecosystems, and habitat is outrageous, but it’s always been that way in the U.S. People need to greatly reduce their beef consumption in order to have any chance of reversing these priorities. If enough people stopped eating enough beef and made it clear that they were doing so because of the great harms that cattle grazing causes, we might get somewhere on this issue. Otherwise, our victories will be small and very limited, such as this one. As George wrote, this entire area should be a National Park, and the only reason it’s not is because of the damn ranchers & cattle.

  2. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Wow, great news! I’ve been concerned that another underhanded delisting scheme might take place with the latest debt increase conflict in Washington.

  3. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    “Under the recently adopted grazing plan, the Forest Service would allow up to 72 grizzlies to be killed over the next ten years. To make matters worse, the Forest Service put no limit on the number of female grizzlies that could be killed. Grizzlies are classified as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The court ruled that this decision was “arbitrary and capricious.”

    It’s absolutely jaw-dropping, isn’t it? Isn’t it one of Tester’s proteges who is Director of the Forest Service? Thank goodness it was stopped.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      Jon Tester is a tool of the ranching and farming industries. He got his seat in the Senate in exchange for the Obama administration removing Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Rocky Mountains.

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      Sorry, that’s the Bureau of Land Management I’m thinking of. But that said, don’t these agencies communicate with each other?

  4. laurie Avatar
    laurie

    So glad for this court win but I only wish it could be fully enforced. That Forest Service needs to be cleaned out, as does the BLM and other public lands/wildlife agencies. Absurd numbers of pro-grazing, hunting, energy/mineral development, etc., ruling for their selfish and harmful interests. What a racket. So fed up with these parasites.

  5. Nancy Avatar
    Nancy

    Where to drop a good, informative article? Pertaining to what this site use to about at one time – The Wildlife News – And wildlife that challenge what’s no longer the norm in their world, and their reactions.

    This was a tragic event for the human who was killed and the bear who also was killed, since research into the attack couldn’t find where this adult, male bear, was habituated to humans.

    Maybe the bear was just pissed off, running across a human that should of been more aware, in what’s left of this bear’s territory?

    It’s complicated, as humans encroach on what’s left of wildlife habitat……..

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      Nancy,
      I agree 100%. Used to give birth to great conversations, perhaps at times tough to moderate, but it was Wildlife News.

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        I’m relatively new here. What do you and Nancy mean? This site seems to be about wildlife and wilderness as far as I can tell. Do mean that you’d rather read stories about wildlife than about environmental issues?

        1. Immer Treue Avatar
          Immer Treue

          Jeff,
          Go to the very top of the Wildlife News page, and there are a couple of headings for, Do You Have Any Interesting Wildlife News. Scroll through some of the discussions. It was a clearing house of sorts for wild life issues world wide, but mostly North America. Some amazing dialogue from diverse group of people, and sometimes there were disagreements.

          I also understand it’s all about habitat, but that seems TWN has gone more on a ecological/environmental tangent than the wildlife issues themselves, the bulwark by one contributor. The Interesting wildlife News section that was discontinued was a place where all could contribute.

  6. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I don’t.

    It’s still the Wildlife News, one of the few places where concern for the country’s last remaining wilderness and wildlife is paramount.

    There are plenty of places to discuss endless human problems that never seem to get resolved and completely overtake this subject most times, but here it’s all about wildlife and wild lands.

    I’m also glad that there’s a lot more civility in the discussions.

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      I don’t even know what they mean. See my response to Immer.

      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I hope that it doesn’t mean that maybe it means that people issues are going to work their way into these discussions.

        I don’t know if that’s what was meant at all, but I think that wild lands and wildlife should be non-partisan.

        I’ve been here since 2011, and it was a little more ‘argumentative’ at times, but in my opinion this is better and quieter this way. I must admit that I was a little more strident then too.

        We’re wildlife and wildlands advocates, that is all, IMO, not men, women, race or class.

  7. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Sorry for that garbled mess of a post I sent previously!

    I don’t see how you can separate those issues – the ecological/environmental from the wildlife issues, it’s all connected, and the land (over)use issues affect it all.

    And I certainly don’t miss, as we find with many forums, the disruptive influences and trolling, and endless threads of argument, and the provocateurs.

    I do miss the the interesting wildlife news thread, but it may have been becoming unwieldy. If it is something we feel must be seen, there’s usually a spot for it.

    As far as I can see, anyone is still welcome to contribute, if they have the interest, that hasn’t changed.

    1. Nancy Avatar
      Nancy

      “And I certainly don’t miss, as we find with many forums, the disruptive influences and trolling, and endless threads of argument, and the provocateurs”

      Meaning what, Ida?

      Would guess most of the crowd that use to post on TWN (IMHO) were a rather spunky and spirited crowd, very familiar and intimate with wildlife issues out here in the west.

      Guessing since you too often couldn’t relate, to those conversations (back in those early days) it would of been, in your mind?

      “a disruptive influences, trolling, and endless threads of argument, and the provocateurs”

      Just saying 🙂

      1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
        Jeff Hoffman

        A troll in this sense is someone who comes to a forum like this for the main purpose of disrupting it. Trolls don’t share the vision or ideology of the website or group. For example, there was one here who was promoting cattle ranching. This is a wilderness and wildlife site, and if you don’t support and prioritize those things, you don’t belong here.

        We don’t need these types, and I don’t want them here either. We have to put up with enough of this in our daily lives, and these people don’t tell us anything we don’t already know (except maybe what the new lies and propaganda are), nor do they provide any benefit to the website, group, or any of the readers & writers. Good riddance!!!

  8. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Oh speaking of which, I thought this was pretty significant, especially when you consider poaching. I saw it over at Exposing The Big Game. Grizzly consideration is mentioned too:

    https://www.bigcountrynewsconnection.com/news/state/idaho/montana-proposes-dropping-wolf-hunt-quota-significantly/article_773ecbfc-02be-52af-965f-3e7154b7825c.html

  9. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I seem to recall one or two people who were banned from the site, and where we talk about the public lands, I don’t have to live in the West to want to preserve our wildlife and lands.

    Of course I could relate to those issues, they’re pretty much the same everywhere.

    People I’m sure move on for their own reasons, maybe they lost interest. I certainly won’t.

  10. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    It wasn’t so much even that, there were quite a few people who although we didn’t agree on certain issues, could respect each other and carry on a civil conversation.

    A few hunters, I don’t know about ranchers but I’m sure there were some, very civil, even pleasant. The ‘old days’? These people were here long before I ever got here!

    There was someone who claimed to be an attorney, and he was not a wolf advocate. Always letting us know when a wolf had been ‘thumped’ (his words), or when his buddy happened to shoot one. Not the most diplomatic. And a few other incidents that I’ve half forgotten about, and really are not worth taking up discussion space.

    For the most part, people could agree to disagree.

    But for the most part people

    1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
      Jeff Hoffman

      An anti-wolf hunter who comes to a wildlife advocate site like this is a troll, pure & simple. No use for people like that, both because they’re trolls, and because they’re immoral enough to think that killing wolves is good or even OK. As I said, it’s bad enough we have to put up with them in the real world, I sure as hell don’t want to hear their crap in a place like this.

      1. Immer Treue Avatar
        Immer Treue

        This is just an amplification of misinformation, much like the game of passing a message between a number of people and seeing how much it changes by the end.
        That’s why I suggested to you to peruse the now discontinued “Do You Have Any Interesting Wildlife News”.

        The aforementioned “claimed attorney” was WM. WM was not anti-wolf, did not hunt wolves, and was a valued contributor to TWN.
        WM was clear headed and of sober mind when most of us were intoxicated with wolf reintroduction and range expansion. Just as many folks out there don’t like dogs, there are many for varied reasons who don’t like wolves. WM was all but clairvoyant in regard to the Colville Tribes reaction to wolf range expansion. I respected WM’s comments about all wildlife and ecological topics. I may not have agreed with everything WM wrote, but he/she was always willing to debate in an educated way, not flooded with emotion. WM had his/her opinions, kept them close, and served as a portal to those who perceived things differently in regard to wolves.

        We had some folks who would appear over the years, a few in particular, who would change their names, but eventually would expose themselves as repeat “trolls”. But in the same breath, they would initiate one to research, intelligently support our arguments, and refute their position, rather than respond with emotion.

        Intellectually, I miss the wealth of contributions, diverse opinion, and the characters who posted in the past. It’s good to know how others think. It’s not black and white but varied shades of gray. “Do You Have Any Interesting Wildlife News” was perhaps, over its span, the single best blog site heading in which I have participated in regard to wildlife.

        1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
          Jeff Hoffman

          I stand corrected regarding that poster. I’d have to read their posts to determine whether I agree with you that they provided value to the discussions, but I’ll take your word for it for now.

          I fully agree that we need to have all LEGITIMATE opinions on the table. In this instance, “legitimate” means opinions based on true facts, not on industry or other Earth-hating propaganda & lies. We live in an Earth-hating society, and we get this anti-wildlife crap all the time. People like that never say anything we haven’t heard before, they’re just annoyances who don’t contribute anything to the discussions.

          I’m happy to entertain arguments and positions that I don’t agree with, so long as they’re legitimate. Sometimes I even change my mind (but not often, because I’m an Earth First!er in that I don’t compromise in defense of Mother Earth and because my positions are very well-founded in support of the natural world and all the life there).

          Entertaining different points of view is how we learn and how we form the best decisions. But there’s a huge difference between entertaining all legitimate points of view, and allowing trolls and other liars to disrupt and annoy us. And as I said, we live in a very anti-Earth society and get a lot of anti-nature propaganda daily, so we don’t need more of that in places like this.

          1. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine

            🙂 I agree, on some things my views are set firmly, and I’m not interested in changing them.

            I’ve been insulted by people I thought I was on the same side of. But you do develop a thicker skin over time.
            Much of this is just a distraction from the causes we so desperately care about. So this is why I find it more peaceful now.

            I’ve never been the type to want to shut down free expression ever, but it does sometimes degrade into name calling and disrespect. And of course the cancel culture too, so that you feel you cannot speak without being misinterpreted.

            For anyone who has the time, go back over the old posts and they’ll draw their own conclusions.

            There were many people who contributed to the discussion who had opposing views to my own.

            WM and Mareks used to get into arguments from time to time. Mareks I am concerned for because he or she is from Ukraine, I think they said.

            1. Jeff Hoffman Avatar
              Jeff Hoffman

              My main concerns here are people who post comments that are lies and/or propaganda, because those comments are not only not based on true facts, they’re based on lies & falsehoods. It doesn’t matter whether those people are just individual trolls for whatever reason, are doing it for financial reasons (restricting or stopping their business practices is good for wildlife & wilderness), or they’re just industry propagandists. Where something is unknown or can’t be known, that’s one thing. But to come onto a site like this and advocate, for example, for cattle grazing, is not acceptable. We know FOR A FACT that cattle grazing is very ecologically harmful, especially in the western U.S., and all the grazing industry propaganda & lies to the contrary, and all the love of beef, don’t change that fact. I’m sure that some ranchers believe the phony “science” that purports to show that grazing is good for the natural environment, but do we really want to have to deal with them on a site like this where we’re discussing how to stop harming and restore the natural environment? Not me.

              To paraphrase the old joke/saying, research and think before you post, and don’t believe anything that comes from any industry or its government lackeys unless it’s contrary to that industry’s interests.

              Bottom line here is that it’s not OK to come onto a site and make comments that are in direct opposition to the purpose of that site, unless you have true facts that contradict the ones being used or touted on that site and you think that you can enlighten people with them, or unless you have a different opinion where facts aren’t involved (“This is how I FEEL about this, strictly my opinion”). But even in the latter sense, it’s not OK to come to this site, for example, and say that you feel that money, business, and our lifestyles are more important than wilderness and wildlife. I can’t propose a black-and-white rule here, but I think you get the idea. People who come to sites to be disruptive or to brainwash others with lies should be banned from the sites, regardless of whether they’re doing so on purpose.

        2. Ida Lupine Avatar
          Ida Lupine

          I wish he would have been a little more diplomatic at times, personally. He didn’t have to be so crude about the killing of wolves, for example. I’m sure he isn’t a saint.

          He’d also be part of the long threads of argument, but he was not the only one of course. Wanting to be right? Leave the ego at the door, is what I’d say.

          On the other hand, there were times he did contribute some good information. I don’t know him, that’s why I said ‘claimed’.

          1. Ida Lupine Avatar
            Ida Lupine

            Or maybe I should say ‘allegedly.

            Also intellectual snobbery should not have a place. There was a little bit of that too. You’re going to need real, everyday people too if we’re going to save our lands and wildlife.

        3. Edward Loosli Avatar
          Edward Loosli

          I agree that “Do You Have Any Interesting Wildlife News” was perhaps, over its span, the single best blog site heading in which I have participated in regard to wildlife. … Is it possible to restore this feature to The Wildlife News?

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan

            Thank you Ed! The problem is this web site needs help to keep going. A lot of years have passed and frankly I am now too old. Ralph Maughan

            1. Ed Loosli Avatar
              Ed Loosli

              Thank you Ralph for all you have done and are doing for the cause of the preservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat … What kind of help is needed to keep The Wildlife News going strong?

              1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
                Ralph Maughan

                My technical skills needed to keep the web site running effectively have gotten rusty, not mention the low level HTML needed to bring back the much favored “wildlife news you have heard” section.

  11. Ed Loosli Avatar
    Ed Loosli

    President Biden’s Secretary of Interior – Deb Haaland is such a disappointment to the cause of predator and prey preservation. She is taking no actions to restore and keep predators on the Endangered Species List, and her silence is enabling hunters, rangers, miners, loggers to pursue their deadly activities.

    1. Ed Loosli Avatar
      Ed Loosli

      “ranchers” who are helping to stop bison from roaming from Yellowstone Nat. Park. … Deb Haaland has the power to declare the Yellowstone Ecosystem bison under the Endangered Species Act, because, in fact, they are threatened with Extinction.

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