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The Vernal Ranger District on the Ashley National Forest recently requested comments on a proposal to change the grazing management of the Lakeshore and Marsh Peak allotments on the Bollies on the eastern end of the Uintas.

The initial scoping document and proposal follows a 1991 decision to close the Chepeta and Whiterocks River allotments to grazing while protecting these high elevation and wild, backcountry areas adjacent to the High Uintas Wilderness for wildlife, including bighorn sheep.

This scoping effort continues that positive step wherein the "bollies" portion of the Marsh Peak allotment is being "set aside" for Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep and the Lakeshore Basin Allotment is being converted from a domestic sheep allotment to a recreation livestock allotment.

It is also important that a meaningful array of alternatives be prepared so that a complete understanding and disclosure of actions is clear. While altering boundaries is important, it is very important that an alternative of no grazing for both allotments (different than a no action alternative) be thoroughly analyzed and discussed.

Obviously grazing capacity in the context of ecological trend is a bedrock issue.

As noted, bighorn sheep represent a crucial, framing issue. Both of these allotments are undeveloped landscapes and adjacent to other ungrazed, undeveloped and wilderness (both capital W and small w!) landscapes. No argument exists within the scientific community about the negative impacts domestic sheep grazing practices have on bighorn sheep. Almost all the literature now recognizes bighorn sheep must be "buffered" by at least 9-10 miles from domestic sheep in order to provide the minimum security bighorn need from one-way disease(s) transmission-- domestic to wild sheep.

Also, of consequential importance are the issues of impacts of grazing upon a plethora of wildlife species and habitat. This is particularly important with respect to indicator species and the nearly-listed lynx and wolverine. Clearly, areas like these are wildlife sanctuaries.

Of weighty importance is the issue of predator control within the High Uintas Wilderness. The Forest Service does play a management role in this issue and it must be considered in this analysis.

Cumulative impacts are also a framing issue from an ecological, social, and roadless/ wilderness/ recreational perspective. The issues of grazing on lower elevation units and trailing must be part and parcel of this discussion in that they may materially alter the buffer protection needed for bighorn sheep or alter the perception of wildness in these areas.

Also of significant concern is the economics of grazing. It is obvious to all that if grazing is not to occur in these areas (no impacts at all are associated with Lakeshore since it is not grazed now and hasn’t been for many years) that there will be no meaningful impacts to a rural lifestyles or economies. On the other hand, if grazing were to occur, it is imperative that an appropriate analysis be conducted to show where grazing fees actually go!

Rangelands on today’s national forest lands have a much broader value than pasture land. That is the issue. Is this suitable rangeland, given the fact that the most sought after areas for grazing are most subject to abuse and have the highest values for bighorn sheep, other critical wildlife values and produce a highly valued wild ecosystem? The ecological values-- the definition of this system-- are an issue here. It is very important that the analysis consider the economic and social valuations the other users of these areas place on the area, not as a pasture but part of a wild High Uintas. This can’t be passed over or passed off as outside of the evaluative constraints.

Dick Carter

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