SPARKS — Acting Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor, Becky Nourse, signed a decision to both authorize livestock grazing and change the livestock use from cattle to sheep in the Bagley Valley, Cottonwood, and Dumont Allotments in Alpine County, California, on September 27, 2012.
Livestock grazing has been part of the landscape for well over a century in Alpine County. The change from cattle to sheep, however, provides the Forest with an opportunity to implement a different type of grazing strategy. Sheep are required to be accompanied by a herder and sheep dogs, for example, and are moved frequently through allotments. This type of grazing reduces potential impacts to resources and can also improve the condition of native plant communities.
As part of this decision, approximately 22,500 acres of the Silver King Allotment and 3,000 acres of the Dumont Allotment will be permanently closed to future livestock grazing to facilitate the recovery of Paiute Cutthroat trout in the Silver King Creek drainage. This closure will eliminate the potential effects of livestock grazing along a stretch of Silver King Creek that is occupied by the endangered fish.
Closure of Silver King Allotment and the changes to the Dumont boundary will also exclude livestock grazing from important habitat for Lahontan cutthroat trout, Yosemite toad, Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, and northern goshawk.
“This decision incorporates several elements that will work together to improve Paiute Cutthroat trout habitat, improve the condition of vegetation in the allotments, and reduce potential impacts of livestock in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness,” said Genny Wilson, Carson District Ranger.
The decision also includes restoring irrigation in the Dumont Allotment to improve livestock forage, as well as to improve riparian and meadow vegetation in Silver King Valley. These meadows were historically irrigated for many decades; native plant species benefited from the increase in water. Irrigation has not occurred on the allotment in more than 15 years, and unfortunately, cheatgrass and other non-desirable plant species populations have increased.
In order to restore irrigation, structures in and out of the wilderness will need to be repaired. The Forest is authorizing the one-time use of one piece of mechanical equipment to perform this work quickly, with the least impact to wilderness characteristics and attributes. That equipment will be used to install one culvert in the wilderness and one outside of the wilderness. Removing deadfall from the ditches and installing gates along the ditches in the pastures will be performed by hand.
“This is a one-time deal – we do not use equipment in wilderness areas without carefully weighing both the potential impacts, as well as the benefits to the area,” explained Wilson. As soon as the equipment has completed the culvert work, it will be promptly removed.
By using the irrigation system and limiting the amount of time the sheep are in the allotments, overall vegetative conditions are expected to improve over time.
The Decision Notice signed by Acting Forest Supervisor Nourse is available for review, along with the supporting Environmental Assessment, on the Humboldt-Toiyabe website at www.fs.usda.gov/htnf. Learn more about this release by contacting either Becky Nourse at 775-355-5304, or Genny Wilson, at 775-884-8100.