©2002 Cascadia Times
10 western rivers trampled by the livestock industry
Little Humboldt River - Nevada
of Lake Lahontan
Lahontan cutthroat trout once occupied thousands
miles of streams in Nevada and California. Today
it is confined to a few hundred miles of streams
- most of which are isolated from each other. Since
1970, it has been listed as a threatened species.
remnant populations of Lahontan trout can be found
in the Humboldt River of northern Nevada, the only
major basin entirely within Nevada, flowing south
and east from mountains in northeastern Nevada before
vanishing into the Humboldt Sink in western Nevada.
Thousands of years ago the area was inundated by
huge Lake Lahontan, which gives the trout its name,
before it turned mostly to desert. Today low summer
flows and river damage caused by livestock production
threaten to eliminate the cutthroat from the basin.
South Fork Little Humboldt is home to one of these
four populations, but perhaps not for long. The
habitat is getting worse, according to the Bureau
of Land Management, and Oro Vaca, the Colorado company
that grazes cattle on both private and public land
in the basin, has resisted efforts to protect it.
1999, the BLM has been trying to improve conditions
in the South Fork, while, Oro Vaca has repeatedly
appealed these reforms.
isn't to say that the BLM's efforts are adequate.
For example, it plans to fence about 4 miles of
cutthroat habitat, leaving more than a dozen miles
unfenced. The fencing does not keep cattle out of
the streams and riparian areas. Rather, it fences
Vaca's lands are "even more devastated than
the public lands," says Laird Lucas, of the
Land and Water Fund of the Rockies. "According
to federal agency data and photos that we have obtained,
the streambanks are almost completely denuded, unstable,
eroding and downcut. The streams are filled with
sediment and water temperatures are often at levels
lethal to trout."
BLM made changes in grazing practices on Oro Vaca's
public grazing allotments in 1999 after consulting
with the Fish and Wildlife Service. The changes
protected trout habitat. But Oro Vaca appealed to
the Interior Board of Land Appeals, and won.
2000 the BLM again consulted with the Fish and Wildlife
Service, which issued a "jeopardy" ruling,
meaning Oro Vaca's cows threatened the continued
existence of Lahontan cutthroat trout. In response,
the BLM again ordered tighter grazing restrictions,
and again Oro Vaca appealed. It lost before the
Interior lands board, but won a half-victory in
federal court. The BLM agreed to let cattle stay
on the land all summer long.
conditions worsened as a result. In 2001, after
two years of excessive grazing, the BLM again ordered
photos on this page indicate Oro Vaca continued
to allow its cattle to trample riparian areas and
new grazing plan was put in effect in 2002.