Lawsuit renews attack on
grazing in Oregon national forest
Environmentalists are continuing their legal battle against
grazing in Oregon’s Fremont-Winema National Forest with a
lawsuit over federal management of a 170,000-acre livestock
The complaint filed by Concerned Friends of the Winema and four
other environmental groups marks the fourth case in roughly a
decade alleging violations of federal statutes in the Antelope
allotment. Environmental groups won more than $340,000 in
litigation costs for two of those earlier cases.
In the most recent lawsuit, the U.S. Forest Service is accused
of unlawfully approving a 10-year grazing permit for the
allotment despite “irreparable harm” to the threatened Oregon
spotted frog and wetland plants and mollusks.
“Rather than protect these special resources, the Forest Service
has continued to authorize livestock grazing on the allotment
that its own monitoring and experts acknowledge is causing
chronic damage and unacceptable impacts to these riparian areas
and species,” the complaint said. “Mitigation measures — such as
fences and water troughs — have not been effective at preventing
cattle from harming the sensitive species and their habitat.”
A representative of the Forest Service said the agency doesn’t
comment on pending litigation and Capital Press was unable to
reach an attorney who has represented affected ranchers in the
Last year, a “biological opinion” conducted by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service concluded that grazing plans for the allotment
are unlikely to jeopardize the frog or adversely affect its
critical habitat, as long as certain conditions are followed.
Because the plans only allow for “moderate” levels of grazing
and require fencing and gates to shield Oregon spotted frogs
from livestock during sensitive periods of low water, the
effects on the species are expected to be insignificant, the
“Therefore, since riparian system function will be maintained or
improved, and since water quality and quantity will be
maintained, and given Oregon spotted frogs are dependent upon
riparian and aquatic systems, we expect that habitat function
for Oregon spotted frogs would not change,” according to the
However, the recent lawsuit alleges that grazing will be
expanded into “exponentially more sensitive riparian areas” that
were previously closed to livestock, which wasn’t properly
analyzed in the Forest Service’s environmental analysis of the
For example, the agency will permit grazing in Oregon spotted
frog habitat to increase from 27 acres to 525 acres without
adequately explaining how it will “discourage” grazing during
vulnerable seasons, the complaint said.
These and other alleged problems violate the National Forest
Management Act, National Environmental Protection Act and the
Endangered Species Act, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs want a federal judge to overturn the Forest
Service’s grazing plans and prohibit livestock from the
allotment until the agency complies with those federal laws.
Earlier this year, a federal judge dissolved an injunction
against grazing in the Chemult Pasture — a major portion of the
Antelope allotment — after finding the Forest Service
sufficiently supported its conclusion that Oregon spotted frogs
won't be harmed.
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