Forest Service to Revise Cattle Grazing to Help Endangered Species in San Jacinto Mountains

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Michael Connor, Western Watersheds Project, (818) 345-0425 or mjconnor@westernwatersheds.org
Joan Taylor, Sierra Club, (760) 408-2488 or palmcanyon@mac.com
Ileene Anderson, Center for Biological Diversity, (323) 654-5943 ianderson@biologicaldiversity.org 

Forest Service to Revise Cattle Grazing to Help Endangered Species in San Jacinto Mountains

LOS ANGELES - The Forest Service withdrew one grazing decision and reversed a
second on appeal because of problems related to cattle grazing in
habitat for the endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep and the Quino checkerspot butterfly.
These actions followed appeals by Western Watersheds Project, Sierra
Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity of two decisions made by
San Bernardino National Forest to reauthorize cattle grazing on 51,000
acres of public land in the San Jacinto Mountains.

“We
are pleased that the Forest Service has responded to public concern and
agreed to reconsider these grazing decisions to better protect
important habitat for these endangered species,” said Michael Connor,
California director of Western Watersheds Project. “The Quino
checkerspot butterfly has disappeared from 75 percent of its range and
protecting what’s left of its habitat is key to its survival.”

“We
hope to resolve this decades-long controversy over cattle in bighorn
sheep habitat and Palm Canyon,” said Joan Taylor, conservation chair of
the local Sierra Club group. “There is no reason to let cattle threaten
valuable biological and cultural resources.”

Peninsular
bighorn sheep are known for both the characteristic large, spiral horns
of the males and for the species’ ability to survive in the dry, rugged
mountains dividing the desert and coastal regions of Southern
California. Once the most numerous of desert bighorn, the U.S.
population of Peninsular bighorn plummeted from 1,171 sheep in 1974 to
a mere 276 by 1996. The species gained state status as rare and
threatened in 1971, but was not listed by the federal government as an
endangered population until 1998 in response to a petition from the
Sierra Club. In addition to conflicts with livestock, which compete for
scarce forage and other resources, Peninsular bighorn are threatened by
habitat loss/modification, human related disturbance, predation and
disease.

The Quino checkerspot is now found only
in Riverside and San Diego counties in the United States. The species
has not been seen in its historic range in Orange, Los Angeles, or
coastal San Diego counties for nearly 30 years and is extirpated from
San Bernardino County. Wildfires in Southern California in 2003 burned
27 percent of known occurrences of the Quino checkerspot and in 2005
even more occupied habitat burned. The fires also helped the spread of
invasive plants into checkerspot habitat, reducing butterfly host
plants. Climate change also poses a major threat to the Quino
checkerspot and its populations have shifted northward and upward in
elevation due to climate change making the allotments in the San
Jacinto Mountains important refugia for this rare species. On national
forest lands, the species is threatened by loss of the host plants
needed by its caterpillars, loss of plants that provide nectar for the
adults, the spread of invasive plants, livestock grazing, predation by
exotic invertebrates, off-road vehicle activity, and fire-management
practices.

“The Forest Service has made the right
decisions for these allotments,” said Ileene Anderson, a biologist with
the Center for Biological Diversity. “The agency needs to give much
closer scrutiny to its duty to conserve endangered species.”

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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