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Environment, Energy and Transportation

Conservationists Criticize Forest Service Management Of Grazing In Klamath Mountains

cattle grazing RR-SNF.jpg
Liam Moriarty
JPR News
Cattle grazing in the Silver Fork Basin of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Environmentalists say the U.S. Forest Service isn't doing enough to protect fragile high country meadows from damage from cows overgrazing and trampling stream banks.

Conservationists say the U.S. Forest Service isn’t properly managing grazing in the Klamath Mountains, resulting in damage to critical habitat for Coho salmon.

Three conservation groups filed an objection against the federal re-authorization of grazing in the Klamath River’s Beaver Creek watershed in Northern California.

The Grazing Reform Project, Western Watersheds Project, and Environmental Protection Information Center argue that cattle are trampling vegetation along sensitive banks, which sends debris into streams.

“The stream becomes flattened and muddy and there’s very little vegetation,” says Laura Cunningham, the California director with the Western Watersheds Project. “The water temperature goes up, and all the banks that have been eroded away deposit silt and sediment into the water, and it becomes murky.”

Coho salmon rely on clear, cool water for spawning. They lay their eggs in gravel beds that need to be clear of debris so they could get oxygen.

The groups also say that cattle often escape and graze in meadows where they’re not allowed. In their filed objection, conservationists have asked the Forest Service to build additional fencing, or stop grazing in the area altogether.

Next, the groups and the Forest Service will negotiate terms for a potential agreement.

The federal agency wouldn’t comment on pending litigation.