After a yearslong wait, a planning document that proposes to renew livestock grazing permits on 266 square miles of public forestland near the Upper Green River has been released to the public.

Plans for the future of the massive grazing allotment complex, which spans the entire Bridger-Teton National Forest from north to south and spills into the Gros Ventre River drainage, were assessed through a 706-page draft environmental impact statement.

The forest’s preferred plan calls for retaining grazing rights on all the acreage that is grazed today and slightly reducing the number of livestock allowed to 8,772 cow-calf pairs and yearling cattle. The Bridger-Teton’s proposal, “alternative 3,” would reduce the authorized grazing season on four of six allotments, add 7 miles of fence line, eliminate some illegal two-track roads and make some other minor modifications from the current grazing regime.

The proposal, the document says, is a “livestock grazing strategy designed to maintain existing rangeland and riparian conditions where they meet desired conditions and improve rangeland and riparian conditions in areas of concern.”

Indicator species listed in the planning document include grizzly bears, amphibians, sage grouse, elk and the Colorado River strain of cutthroat trout.

Bridger-Teton officials authorized to speak to the press could not be reached for comment by press time.

The Upper Green rangeland is the most concentrated area for grizzly bear conflict in the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. A year ago, 80 livestock were confirmed killed by the large carnivores, and five chronically depredating grizzlies were captured and killed in return. As of mid-September, conflict tied to grizzlies had slowed considerably in 2016.

To reduce conflict with the federally-protected species, the Bridger-Teton proposes to adhere to U.S. Fish and Wildlife guidelines imposed by a 2014 “biological opinion.” Specifically, that document authorizes the killing of 11 grizzlies over any three-year period in connection to the grazing activity in the Upper Green.

Beyond the Fish and Wildlife-directed guidelines, the Bridger-Teton’s plan introduces no new required nonlethal techniques to stem grizzly-cattle conflict. Forest planners hope to finalize the document before the next grazing season, by which time grizzly bears may be managed by Wyoming.

The preferred alternative, the document says, was altered to reflect public comments received six years ago when a similar draft environmental impact statement came out. Because of the extraordinary length of time that’s lapsed since that draft, Bridger-Teton officials decided to reissue another draft instead of publishing a final plan and decision memo.

The grazing allotments in question are located approximately 35 miles east of Jackson and most easily accessed by Union Pass Road.

Three other alternatives are included in the Bridger-Teton’s lengthy planning document.

One option would take “no action” and allow no livestock on the rangeland, and another would continue the grazing regime as it occurs today. A fourth alternative focuses on reducing damage to riparian areas from cattle grazing.

Comments on the Bridger-Teton’s draft plans for the Upper Green rangeland are due by Nov. 21. Go online to fs.usda.gov/project/?project=3049 for related documents and instructions on weighing in.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or environmental@jhnewsandguide.com.

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