STILL NO GRAZING PLAN FOR FRAGILE WEST FORK BLACKS FORK
While we still await a profoundly late (see accompanying article Fire and Logging this issue) grazing decision on the West Fork of the Blacks Fork (see The LYNX, 8/02), the negative impacts of sheep grazing go on and on!
It is on this issue that such a deep bias is revealed by the Forest Service--one that is either invisible to the agency or ignored. Either way it says much about the agency. The Forest Service, at least here on the Uintas, and our experience shows it to be just about everywhere grazing occurs, sees grazing as foundational, almost metaphysical in context-- 'There is nothing wrong with grazing, whether dirtied water, grazed out alpine meadows, the smell of pasture and manure, the bleating of sheep, heavily used herder camps, salt licks, that can't be minimized by, in part, simply accepting the use. Turn your head and look in another direction, go somewhere else where the sheep have not yet grazed or where they don't graze. Your concerns are of less value and importance that the mere act of allowing sheep to graze.' That is the plain argument, often made very nearly in those terms and always by way of action. It is as though there is something inherently right about grazing and inherently wrong about being appalled or concerned by the impacts of grazing.
It is imperative the Forest Service begin their analysis on the West Fork or anywhere else on the Uintas from the premise of how to meet not just the concerns of the sheep permittee but the backcountry users with all of it being guided by ecologically literate decisions and analysis. Hiding behind sheep grazing is a right of the permittee and right, in and of itself, is an archaic and blunderingly bad way to be professional land managers.
Furthermore, for the last couple of years we have seen, heard of and reported to the Forest Service cattle use along the Highline Trail into Naturalist Basin and all the way toward Pigeon Milk Spring as the accompanying letter shows. Nothing has been done about this, in spite of the fact that it is blatant trespass by cattle permittees!
It is far past time to correct these problems.