6 Apr 2010, 5:20pm
Latest Wildlife News
by admin

Ruling leaves grazing up in the air

By Scott Sandsberry, The Yakima Herald-Republic, April 6, 2023 [here]

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has shelved its pilot grazing project in southeast Washington after a judge ruled it had acted arbitrarily in moving ahead with the program over the objections of its own biologists.

How the ruling affects a controversial cattle-grazing project in the Whisky Dick and Quilomene Wildlife areas of eastern Kittitas County in May and June, though, hasn’t been decided.

“If the state chooses to ignore the decision — because it technically applies to the 2009 authorization for Pintler Creek on the Asotin Wildlife Area and nowhere else — they do so at their own legal risk,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project, the Idaho-based conservation group that had sued the Wildlife Department over its pilot grazing project.

Western Watersheds has also sued the department over its part in the management process to graze portions of the Whisky Dick and Quilomene Wildlife areas and other nearby state and private lands on neighboring pastures in eastern Kittitas County. No hearing date has been set on that case. Both cases were filed in Thurston County Superior Court.

Western Watersheds attorney Kristin Ruether said the ruling on Friday “addresses the heart of whether it’s appropriate to do commercial grazing on state wildlife areas. It may be a turning point. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Superior Court rulings are not binding on other courts, Ruether said. “But they can certainly be persuasive, especially when the facts might be so similar.”

Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association said he was surprised by the ruling.

“I honestly don’t know how that will impact the (Whisky Dick and Quilomene plans),” he said.

Wildlife Department state lands manager Jennifer Quan said Monday that state officials haven’t decided yet “whether the decision has larger statewide implications.”

“We still have yet to make decisions about how we move forward with other permits,” Quan said.

Wildlife Department director Phil Anderson said he thought the issues related to the pilot grazing and Kittitas County projects were “apples and oranges.”

But he said Judge Paula Casey’s ruling had essentially set a new standard for grazing on state wildlife lands that the department would have to consider. … [more]

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