Environews, Minis

Environews: Stewart slips public lands attack into Farm Bill

By Amy Brunvand

Representative Chris Stewart (R-UT-2) slipped an attack on Utah public lands into the 2018 Farm Bill that passed in December. The misnamed “Sage-Grouse & Mule Deer Conservation and Restoration Act” actually caters to cattle ranchers who want to destroy piñon/juniper forests without going through an environmental review process.

Piñon/juniper forests are a native plant community that has been expanding in range. Stewart characterizes this as an “invasion.”

So-called “vegetation improvement” projects are done by “chaining” (dragging a huge chain between two bulldozers to knock down trees) and re-seeding grass for cattle. The massive ecological damage can take decades to recover.

Forest removal actually can enhance sage-grouse habitat, but range ecologists recommend small-scale, patchy forest removal targeted to identified sites, not widespread deforestation.

BLM has proposed massive chaining projects on more than 110,000 acres within the original boundaries of Grand Staircase National Monument. In 2015, Stewart introduced a bill to prevent listing sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act (it didn’t pass).

Get involved: Center for Biological Diversity.

This article was originally published on January 7, 2019.