Groups sue over cattle grazing in UT national park

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - Two environmental groups are suing the National Park Service over cattle grazing in Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.

The Western Watersheds Project of Hailey, Idaho, and the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center of Bozeman, Mont., want the agency to conduct an environmental analysis on grazing’s impact on two cactus plants listed under the Endangered Species Act.

“National parks, tiny cacti, fragile soils and a bunch of cows don’t mix,” Jonathan Ratner, the watersheds project’s director for Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, the service hasn’t wanted to address this problem and has turned a blind eye to the trampling and degradation caused by cattle in Capitol Reef.”

A representative at the national park didn’t immediately return a phone call Sunday.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, accuses the park service of breaking environmental law by failing to consider the impacts of cattle grazing on the threatened Winkler’s pincushion and endangered Wright fishhook cactus, The Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1fIkJDl ). Both are found within grazing allotments in the Utah park.

The lawsuit claims that a National Park Service email, dated Jan. 3, 2013, and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, discussed the negative impacts grazing was having on threatened species in the park.

“Field observations and discussion with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cause park staff to believe that present grazing and trailing patterns may jeopardize the continued existence,” the lawsuit quotes the email. “Conservation actions required to protect the species would likely require significant changes in grazing and trailing.”

The groups said the environmental analysis would determine whether grazing should continue in the park.

“But from our perspective it would be better if there was no grazing,” said Travis Bruner, executive director of the watersheds project.

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Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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