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HIGH UINTAS PRESERVATION COUNCIL ALERT! January 2000

VERY IMPORTANT! THE MARSH PEAK AND LAKESHORE BASIN GRAZING ALLOTMENT ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT NEEDS YOUR WILD VOICE BY JANUARY 15! PLEASE TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO WRITE!

This is important-- the Marsh Peak and Lakeshore Basin Grazing Allotment Environmental Assessment! YOUR comments and wild voice are needed, PLEASE! Send your comments by January 15 to: Brad Exton District Ranger, Vernal Ranger District Ashley National Forest 355 N. Vernal Ave. Vernal, UT 84078 or by e-mail to: ekerns/r4_ashley@fs.fed.us. In mid-December the Vernal Ranger District released this "draft" Environmental Assessment (EA) and, while it is not picture perfect, it continues an important trend in eliminating sheep grazing on alpine environments and assisting in bighorn sheep recovery. The most notable and primary decision, Alternative D, is to end domestic sheep grazing on the Lakeshore Basin allotment, which has not been grazed for many years, and to alter the boundary of the Marsh Peak allotment by removing close to 3,000 acres and adding it to the closed Lakeshore Basin. About a 1000 sheep would still be allowed to graze the lower elevations on the Marsh Peak allotment.

-A very short background-

In the late 1980s the Wasatch National Forest's Mt. View Ranger District (with the strenuous support of the Utah Wilderness Association) removed sheep grazing from the Burnt Ridge, Beaver Meadows, and Kabell Creek areas on the North Slope to set in motion a re-introduction of bighorn sheep to the eastern Uintas. By the early 1990s the Vernal Ranger District of the Ashley National Forest and UWA set in motion a courageous decision to close the Chepeta Lake and Whiterocks River allotments with a promise to make a final decision on the Marsh Peak and Lakeshore Basin allotments. Finally that decision has been made. And with it much of the eastern Uintas, including most of "the Bollies," is off limits to sheep grazing!

-The proposal...and the problems-

Not all is perfect with this proposal but it is a major step forward! The Forest Service analysis shows clearly, plainly and honestly that the best alternative to meet bighorn sheep concerns, watershed issues, fisheries issues as it relates to maintaining native cutthroat trout habitat, other wildlife considerations and wildness is to end grazing on the Marsh Peak allotment as well. The No Action alternative proposes to do this by phasing the allotment out in two years. Almost without dissension wildlife biologists and veterinarians agree that wild bighorn sheep must be separated from domestic sheep by at least a 9 mile buffer to assure disease transmission will be minimized from domestic sheep to the unprotected bighorn sheep. The EA notes this fact then erroneously dismisses it by noting bighorn sheep have died from domestic sheep diseases when separated by far more than 9 miles and that closure of the Marsh Peak Allotment will still not meet the 9 mile prescription. Both miss the point-- closure of Marsh Peak adds distance and safety, moving us in the only right direction we can go! The bold step taken by the Vernal District is dampened by the failure to set in motion the end of the equation!

-What to do-
  1. Support the Vernal Ranger District's decision to close the Lakeshore Basin allotment to sheep grazing. It has not been used for over a decade!

  2. Remind the Forest Service that their own analysis and Environmental Assessment shows clearly that all resource values are best protected and enhanced with the closure of the Marsh Peak Allotment. Urge the Forest Service to phase domestic sheep grazing out over the next 2-5 years.

Let your wild voice be heard! Remember, comments are due January 15, 2000 and should be sent to: Brad Exton District Ranger, Vernal Ranger District Ashley National Forest 355 N. Vernal Ave. Vernal, UT 84078 or by e-mail to: ekerns/r4_ashley@fs.fed.us.

Thank you much!

HUPC


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