Forest Service In Nev. To Review Grazing Plan's Impact On Birds

The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to reconsider a new grazing management plan for a large swath of public lands along the Nevada-California line after two environmental groups complained about its impact on certain bird species, officials said.

Western Watersheds Project and Forest Guardians in November appealed the grazing plan for the 641 square-mile area near the eastern Sierra that was contained in an environmental impact statement approved by the Forest Service's district ranger in Bridgeport, Calif.

The area includes parts of Mineral and Lyon counties in Nevada and Mono County in California.

Ed Monnig, supervisor of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, said he agreed to reconsider the plan to ensure it meets standards set by federal courts in recent rulings concerning grazing lawsuits.

Monnig said he believes the plan implemented by the district ranger is sound, and took into consideration the impacts of grazing on a variety of environmental resources, including fish and wildlife.

"However, we are committed to doing what we need to do to prove our case," he said Thursday.

Specifically, Monnig agreed with the groups' argument that the grazing plan didn't adequately consider effects on the yellow warbler, a migratory bird.

But the conservation groups maintain that concerns about the bird are only part of the plan's failure.

"The yellow warbler is the tip of the iceberg," Katie Fite of the Idaho-based Western Watersheds Project said in a written statement.

She and others argue that the environmental impact statement failed to address the impact of grazing on the overall landscape that also sustains sage grouse, a bird they've been trying for years to get listed as an endangered species.

"The Mono Basin-area sage grouse has been reduced to perilously low levels," said Mark Salvo, director of the Sagebrush Sea Campaign for Forest Guardians. "Livestock grazing must be significantly reduced or eliminated if the sage grouse are to survive."

Monnig said the plan would have reduced grazing on several allotments, closed one and reopened another.

Until a review of the plan is completed, the area will be managed under existing rules, Monnig said.