DENVER (CN) – The 10th Circuit upheld the U.S. Forest Service‘s decision to allow livestock grazing in Wyoming’s Medicine Bow National Forest, rejecting environmentalists’ claim that it jeopardized a threatened species of mouse.
The ruling is a victory for Wyoming ranchers and ranching associations, many of whom intervened in support of the government.
The Forest Service’s grazing plan divides Pole Mountain near Laramie, Wyo., into eight livestock allotments, seven of which are used for grazing, and allows grazing of up to 2,086 cattle and 1,200 from June to mid-October. The plan also adopts certain grazing management practices, such as a deferred-rotation system allowing ranchers to graze only one allotment at a time.
The Center for Native Ecosystems, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and the Forest Guardians claimed the grazing threatens critical habitats for the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which lives in areas of Pole Mountain. The Fish and Wildlife Service added the mouse to the threatened species list in 1998.
Plaintiffs also accused the Forest Service of violating the Clean Water Act because it had not complied with Wyoming water-quality requirements, and nearby creeks tested for high levels of fecal bacteria.
The circuit concluded that the Forest Service had already considered the environmental effects of grazing in 1998, and did not need to consult the FWS a second time. Thus, the decision to allow grazing was not arbitrary or capricious. See ruling.