A disgrace for the Salmon Challis National Forest

Ken Cole over at The Wildlife News has a new(ish) post up titled, “Basin Creek, Little Lost River Drainage. Lost because of livestock. Below are some snips from the article.

Basin Creek is a headwater tributary of the Little Lost River drainage in Idaho. It was home to bull trout and had a series of wet meadows which are in the process of eroding away and becoming biological wastelands.

Western Watersheds Project staff and supporters visited this stream in late 2008 along with the Salmon Challis National Forest District Ranger, Diane Weaver. It was in the process of severe erosion at that time and she was embarrassed enough to authorize an exclosure to keep cattle out of the stream….

Over the weekend I, Brian Ertz, and his kids visited the same spot and found that cattle had been in the exclosure last year, as evidenced by the utilization of the grass and the numerous cow pies that littered the area. The stream had also cut an additional 5 feet down into the soft, riparian sediments that were deposited over centuries, and the head cut had moved higher up the meadow.

The stream and the meadow are dying. Sediments are eroding into the stream below and the head cut is moving upstream slowly but surely. The lower stretches of the stream are drying out because the water table is lower….

So often people and agencies advocate for these types of exclosures around sensitive stream areas but once they are built they fail to take another look. Exclosures usually end up turning into enclosures for cattle, and, rather than keep cattle out of an area, they keep them in because, frankly, it is exactly the type of area that cattle like to be.

It is not an uncommon experience for us to find exclosures that have had trespassing cattle or contain the offending animals themselves. It also not uncommon to see accelerated degradation occurring to these areas when they are not properly maintained or monitored. The fences keep other, native wildlife out and, in some circumstances end up killing sage grouse that collide into them. They don’t work, and agencies are foolish to depend on them.

Visit The Wildlife News’ site for the full story, as well as a nice slideshow from the area.

1 thought on “A disgrace for the Salmon Challis National Forest”

  1. I worked there in 2007, doing aspen surveys, in support of a new Grazing Plan. The entire central part of Idaho is highly erodible, with decomposed granite being a dominant soil component. Within the Little Lost River drainage, you can see mammoth alluvial fans, one with a 15 mile long “land front”, overtaking older geologic formations. Since I am interested in such geology, this area was of immense interest. Without the tree cover and other vegetation, you could see classic examples of glacier’s impacts. And, the mountains around there are completely spectacular.


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