Group Says Forest Service Fails to Monitor Grazing
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. − An environmental group accused the U.S. Forest Service of failing to adequately monitor livestock grazing allotments in New Mexico and Arizona and allowing overgrazing.
The Santa Fe-based Forest Guardians compiled the report with data provided by the Forest Service under the Freedom of Information Act, said Billy Stern, grazing program director for Forest Guardians.
Cattle interests urged caution with the study, saying the interpretation appeared to be based on a desired outcome.
"We live on the ground every day and we don't see what they're saying is out there," said Caren Cowan, director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association.
The report, released Tuesday and based on data compiled between 1999 and 2003, said the worst year was 1999, when 75 percent of grazing allotments in the two states did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act.
According to the data used, the Apache-Sitgreaves, Prescott and Tonto national forests in Arizona, the Coronado national forest in both states and the Lincoln National Forest in southern New Mexico had 50 percent or more allotments out of compliance for all five years of the study.
"We found that the Forest Service failed to monitor a significant number of allotments and of those allotments, utilization violations occur in significant numbers," the report said.
However, Forest Guardians acknowledged it used only data provided, and assumed there was no monitoring when there was no data for a particular allotment.
Dave Stewart, director of rangeland management for the Forest Service in Albuquerque, said the agency could not comment directly because of pending lawsuits. However, he said various methods of monitoring and management are used, depending on the objectives for each allotment.
Source: Associated Press