A group of Oregon conservationists is suing the U.S. Forest Service after it reauthorized livestock grazing on grasslands within Hells Canyon National Recreation Area.
The lawsuit, filed in early January by the Greater Hells Canyon Council in La Grande, looks to protect a rare species of plant known as Spalding’s catchfly, the Capital Press reported.
Spalding’s catchfly, which is found only in eastern Washington, northeast Oregon, west-central Idaho, western Montana and British Columbia, Canada, is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
The Forest Service is obligated to protect Spalding’s catchfly under the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Comprehensive Management Plan, Greater Hells Canyon Council Conservation Director Veronica Warnock said.
“This isn’t about a rancher doing something wrong,” Warnock said. “This is about the Forest Service ignoring management recommendations on how to protect and recover a threatened species, something it is required to do in Hells Canyon.”
A Forest Service spokesman said the agency cannot comment on pending litigation.
Darilyn Brown, executive director of the Greater Hells Canyon Council, said delisting Spalding’s catchfly is the ultimate goal.
“The area in dispute is really just a small fraction of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest,” Brown said. “However, it could have a big impact on the recovery of Spalding’s catchfly.”
Fewer than 1,000 catchfly plants are known to exist in the grazing area along the lower Imnaha River in Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is part of the forest, though the areas are technically managed under different forest plans.