Katy Nesbitt
The La Grande Observer

A La Grande environmental group announced Wednesday afternoon it is suing the U.S. Forest Service over the risk cattle grazing poses to Spalding’s catchfly, a plant listed as federally threatened on the Endangered Species List.

On Jan. 10, the Greater Hells Canyon Council filed suit over the Forest Services’ “failure to meet its duties to protect and recover threatened Spalding’s catchfly in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.”

The suit claims the U.S. Forest Service’s decision to reauthorize livestock grazing within the Lower Imnaha Range Analysis area “threatens to impair the viability and recovery of the Spalding’s catchfly.”

According to the lawsuit, “The Forest Service’s failure to adequately analyze the harmful effects of livestock grazing on this rare plant, and failure to impose sufficient measures to protect the plant from trampling and habitat degradation, results in this decision violating the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Act and those statutes’ implementing regulations.”

Darilyn Brown of the Greater Hells Canyon Council said, “The area in dispute is really just a very small fraction of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. However, it could have a big impact on the recovery of Spalding’s catchfly.”

The press release said after completing its analysis, the Forest Service, as required under the Endangered Species Act, consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over how best to protect and recover Spalding’s catchfly in these allotments. The Greater Hells Canyon Council offered to drop its objection to the project if the Forest Service follows Fish and Wildlife’s recommendations and its own specialists’ advice.

“The goal here is to have the plant delisted,” Brown said.

See complete story in Friday's Observer