Wilderness Watch is urging the U.S. Forest Service to drop its proposal to re-open two long-vacant grazing allotments in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to cattle grazing as part of its “East Paradise Range Allotment Management Plan.” The allotments are steep and unsuitable for cattle grazing, and have been closed to grazing for 20 years.
Bordering Yellowstone National Park, the 937,000-acre Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is a spectacular piece of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem comprised of rugged peaks, hundreds of small lakes in glacial cirques, alpine meadows, active glaciers, and dense forests. Grizzly bears, moose, elk, mule deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pikas, wolves, and many other animals make their home here.
Allowing cattle grazing in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness would create substantial negative impacts to the Wilderness and its watersheds and native wildlife. The Forest Service’s own biologist concluded that re-opening these allotments would likely harm grizzly bears. Fencing and water developments in the allotments would adversely impact existing habitats and protected species, and the FS’s environmental assessment (EA) is unclear whether motorized tools and equipment would be used for their construction/reconstruction.Additionally, cattle grazing would directly reduce native forage available for wildlife, damage vegetation and riparian areas, degrade water quality, and spread invasive weeds.
The FS is also proposing to re-issue four other allotments (including a third that is currently closed) in roadless areas adjacent to and proposed for addition to the Wilderness. These public lands are low-elevation critical habitat for native wildlife. The FS should protect the Wilderness and surrounding lands by closing all six allotments to cattle grazing.
Photo: Robert via Flickr