About The Trout Creek Mountain Working Group
|The Trout Creek Mountain Working Group was formed in 1988 to resolve a conflict over livestock grazing on Trout Creek Mountain, located in southeastern Oregon. The area includes approximately 750,000 acres of Federal rangeland in the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Vale and Burns Districts. The area contains five grazing allotments used by l2 livestock operators with about 9,000 cattle.
By the mid-1980's, more than 100 years of season-long grazing had caused the deterioration of natural resources on Trout Creek Mountain to the point where the BLM was considering eliminating livestock grazing on the area. As a result of the deterioration, the rare trout that inhabit the 160 miles of perennial streams on the mountain were suffering a serious decline in numbers.
The Trout Creek Mountain Working Group was created to craft a long term solution that would provide for both the ecological health of the land and the economic well being of people. The group consists of representatives from:
However, anyone can join the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group at any time and all meetings are open to the public, in compliance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act and other laws.
In 1989, the Whitehorse Ranch, the biggest permittee on Trout Creek Mountain, and the BLM signed a "three-year rest agreement." The agreement committed the Whitehorse Ranch to remove livestock from about 50,000 acres of the Whitehorse Butte Allotment, the two mountain pastures, for three years to allow improvement of watershed and riparian conditions while the BLM developed an Allotment Management Plan (AMP).
The working group, in conjunction with the BLM, then began developing alternative livestock grazing strategies for the Whitehorse Butte AMP through the environmental analysis process as directed by the National Environmental Policy Act. Meetings and on-the-ground tours enabled group members to exchange information and articulate values, perspectives, organizational positions, personal feelings, and ideas. The Whitehorse Butte Final Environmental Analysis (OR-030-90-08) Final Decision was issued in July 1990.
Years of hard work paid off in September, 1991, when the Whitehorse Butte AMP was signed in September 1991 and initiated in March 1992. The AMP reflected a land management strategy for Trout Creek. BLM maintained the final decision making authority and each member of the Trout Creek Mountain Working Group contributed to the strategy reflected in the AMP.
The new Whitehorse Butte AMP required major changes in livestock grazing, including a reduction in the season of use from four months to two months on the mountain pastures; a reduction in the number of cattle from 1,900 to 700 only for the two mountain pastures; reduction in the number of cattle from 1900 to 1500 in the lower elevation pastures; and construction of various range improvements such as 16 1/2 miles of fence, one reservoir and 18 miles of pipeline as well as the removal of six miles of fence.
The ultimate test of the ecological soundness of the working group and BLM plan came in 1991 when the fish that inhabit streams on Trout Creek Mountain were genetically identified as Lahontan Cutthroat trout. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Lahontan Cutthroat trout as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1975. The fish were being called Willow/Whitehorse cutthroat and in November 1991 were identified as Lahontan cutthroat. Under Section 7 of the ESA, the BLM was required to submit the Whitehorse Butte AMP to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for review to determine if it jeopardized the fish. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a "No Jeopardy" biological opinion for the AMP and livestock were turned out as planned into affected watersheds.
Today, the working group and the BLM have developed and implemented AMPs for three of the five Trout Creek Mountain allotments. Work is underway on the AMPs for the two remaining allotments.
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