Center for Biological Diversity
Protecting endangered species and wild
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 20, 2003
North Fork Eel River to Receive Increased Protection
San Francisco Federal Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton
today ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Information Center
(EPIC), the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), and a Native American
Elder, Coyote Downey, in their lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service
for unlawful livestock grazing in the Wild and Scenic North Fork Eel River.
Judge Hamilton agreed with the plaintiffs that the Six Rivers National
Forest has permitted livestock grazing in violation of the federal Wild
and Scenic Rivers Act
The suit was filed in December 2001 in Federal District Court in San Francisco and included claims under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (WSRA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Rescissions Act and the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
The North Fork Eel River was designated as a wild river under the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1981. This remote watershed is one of three major forks of the Eel River, with its headwaters located in the Hettenshaw Valley. The North Fork Eel Wild and Scenic stretch is 15 miles long through the Six Rivers National Forest.
Coyote Downey, a Native American Elder, stated, My people have always been the caretakers of the river. The entire headwaters of the Eel River ecosystem is our ancestral homeland and needs to be protected for the children.
The Court held that the Forest Service illegally favored cattle over steelhead and that it must do what it can to enhance threatened steelhead, Pete Frost, an attorney for the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC), stated.
Cynthia Elkins, Programs Director of EPIC, stated, This ruling is an important victory for our imperiled steelhead trout. We are hopeful this ruling will spur the Forest Service to protect this magnificent place.
The Center for Biological Diversity was formed in 1989 and has more than 7,500 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, 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.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT THE 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 in Hettenshaw Valley. The river is approximately 40 miles long, and it flows through the Six Rivers National Forest. 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 approximately 50 inches a year.
On January 19, 1981, the Secretary of the Interior approved the Governor of Californias application to designate a segment of the North Fork Eel as a federal wild and scenic river. 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 WSRA. WSRA provides that the Forest Service must administer the North Fork Eel WSR primarily to protect and enhance its outstandingly remarkable values (ORVs). Anadromous fish are an ORV of the North Fork Eel WSR. Scenery is an ORV of the North Fork Eel WSR. Water quality is an ORV of the North Fork Eel WSR. Recreation is an ORV of the North Fork Eel WSR. Vegetation is an ORV of the North Fork Eel WSR. 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 currently ineffective because the allotment is currently vacant.