(Pocatello) Much of the mountainous area west and south of Pocatello is now being reviewed by the Westside Ranger District, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, to determine if the public thinks the area is still suitable for cattle grazing. Anyone who has an opinion or information may submit comments to the Forest Service by January 4, 2011.
The three cattle allotments in question are the Pocatello, Midnight, and Michaud and jointly cover approximately 46,000 acres on the Bannock Range. They include, for example, the tributaries of Mink Creek, Lead Draw, Elk Meadows, Scout and Old Tom Mountains, and the steep canyons that drain off them to east, such as Goodenough Creek.
"All of this part of the forest is heavily used for recreation by the local community, and cattle presence during the summer and early fall months has a negative impact on these activities," comments Dr. Charles Trost, founder and field trip chair of the Portneuf Valley Audubon Society (PVAS).
Every ten years the U.S. Forest Service must redo the management plans for the grazing allotments on its land. "The NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act] analysis supporting grazing on these cattle allotments is outdated and the reauthorization decisions were signed prior to the completion of the 2003 Revised Forest Plan" writes Westside District Ranger Jeffery Hammes in the 2011 Lower Portneuf Environmental Assessment Analysis Scoping document .
One of the most significant issues relating to the Pocatello allotment is the unlawful use of the West Fork of Mink Creek. Most of it has been closed for many years to cattle grazing, but recreational users complain of cattle trespassing into the closed area.
The main fork of Mink Creek, where the highway runs, is also closed to grazing from the forest boundary upstream to just past its confluence with the West Fork. The problem here, according to Dr. Ralph Maughan, vice president of the Western Watersheds Project, is excessive grazing in its tributaries such as Kinney Creek and farther upstream in the South Fork of Mink Creek and the slopes along the highway beneath Crystal Summit. Maughan also says the grazing season is too long. The grazing period on the Pocatello Grazing allotment is from June 1 until Oct. 10. Maughan says this takes up the entire period plants are growing except the month of May.
"With a large population base so close by, and the ever-increasing number of outdoor enthusiasts roaming the nearby hills, there is no place for cattle grazing this close to town and the permits should not be renewed," writes Scott MacButch, PVAS webmaster, in his comments on the scoping document.
Those wishing to make comments on the 2011 Lower Portneuf Environmental Assessment Analysis Scoping document may do so by emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org or writing to the Westside Ranger District, 4350 Cliffs, Pocatello, Idaho 83204.