Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
places of western North America
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 10, 2001
GROUPS FILE WILD AND SCENIC RIVER LAWSUIT TO PROTECT NORTH FORK EEL RIVER
Forest Service Charged with Degradation of Fisheries and Water Quality from Cattle Grazing
San Francisco - The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) filed a lawsuit suit today in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Anne Venemen and the Six Rivers National Forest for allowing cattle grazing to severely damage the fisheries and water quality of the Wild and Scenic North Fork Eel River. The suit seeks to halt cattle grazing in the river corridor and compel the Forest Service to protect and restore the North Fork Eel River as required by law.
The North Fork Eel River was designated as a component of the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1981and is one of three major forks of the Eel River. The Forest Service allows five grazing allotments within the designated stretch of the river corridor. Large numbers of cows transgress the river, causing massive algae blooms and other problems that impair water quality and seriously degrade fish habitat. Despite clear requirements in the law, the Forest Service has never reviewed the environmental impacts of this grazing under the National Environmental Policy Act, nor has it completed a management plan for the Wild and Scenic North Fork Eel River.
"The North Fork Eel is one of the little known crown jewels of the nation's Wild and Scenic Rivers system, yet the Forest Service has turned a blind eye to the ongoing destruction of its water quality and fisheries from cattle grazing," Peter Galvin, Conservation Biologist for the Center for Biological Diversity, stated.
Pete Frost, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC), stated, "the Forest Service is in clear violation of the law. Hopefully this lawsuit will spur the Forest Service to get their Wild and Scenic Rivers program back on track, and protect the North Fork Eel from further harm."
The Center for Biological Diversity was formed in 1989 and has more than 6,000 members. The Center works to protect endangered species and wild places through science, policy, education and environmental law. The Center is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona and has offices in Berkeley, San Diego and Idyllwild, California and Phoenix, Arizona and Silver City, New Mexico
EPIC was formed in 1977 and is dedicated to preserving, protecting, and restoring biodiversity, native species, watersheds and ecosystems in northern California. EPIC is headquartered in Garberville, California.
The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center, Julia Olson of Wild Earth Advocates and Brent Plater of the Center for Biological Diversity.
For a copy of the lawsuit and other background information on the issue, please visit either www.biologicaldiversity.org or www.wildcalifornia.org.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON THE WILD AND SCENIC NORTH FORK EEL RIVER
The North Fork Eel River is one of three major forks of the Eel River in California. The headwaters of the North Fork Eel River are located in Hettenshaw Valley. The river is approximately 40 miles long, and it flows through the Six Rivers National Forest for much of this distance. Approximately 40% of the 180,020-acre North Fork Eel watershed is administered by the Six Rivers National Forest through the Mad River Ranger District. The watershed has a Mediterranean climate with cool wet winters and warm dry summers. Precipitation in the basin is at least 50 inches a year.
On January 19, 1981, the Secretary of the Interior approved the Governor of California's application to designate a segment of the North Fork Eel as a federal Wild and Scenic River (WSR). The North Fork Eel WSR is 15 miles long; the designated segment of the river runs from the Old Gilman Ranch downstream to the confluence with the mainstem Eel River near Ramsey. The boundaries of the North Fork Eel WSR establish a river area comprised of roughly 1,558 acres.
The North Fork Eel WSR is classified as "wild" under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA). The WSRA provides that the Forest Service must administer the North Fork Eel WSR primarily to protect and enhance its "outstandingly remarkable values" (ORVs). The ORVs in the North Fork Eel River include anadromous fisheries, scenery, water quality, recreation, and vegetation. WSRA also provides that the Forest Service must cooperate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state water pollution control agencies in order to eliminate or diminish pollution in the North Fork Eel WSR.
The Forest Service authorizes livestock grazing on five allotments that include, border upon, or are adjacent to the North Fork Eel WSR. The allotments include Van Horn; Long Ridge; Hoaglin; Zenia; and Soldier Creek. The Forest Service authorizes livestock grazing on Forest Service lands by issuing a permit. The permit for the Van Horn allotment was issued in 1991 and expires on Dec. 31, 2001. The permit for the Long Ridge allotment was issued in 1991 and expires on Dec. 31, 2001. The permit for the Hoaglin allotment was issued in 1991 and expires on Dec. 31, 2001. The permit for the Zenia allotment was issued in 2000 and expires in 2010. The permit for the Solider Creek allotment was issued in 1991 but is ineffective because the allotment is currently vacant.