Lawsuit aims to end Wyoming’s oldest traditional cattle drive
The Mountain States Legal Foundation has stepped into stop a lawsuit filed to protect grizzly bears in Wyoming that could threaten a 124-year-old Wyoming cattle drive in the state’s Upper Green Valley.
The Upper Green River cattle allotment is accessed through the Green River Drift Trail in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, which according to Western Livestock Journal, is the oldest cattle drive in Wyoming and possibly the U.S. that is still consistently used. The trail has natural features that provide water and feed for the cattle.
The motion was filed by MSLF in defense of “the rights of American ranchers to access federal land as they have for generations and to protect the legacy of the people who built the West.”
The original suit was filed by environmental watchdog Wester Watershed Project, and the challenge focuses on claims that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not consider a distinction between male and female grizzly bears when removing them. The plaintiffs say that the failure to make this distinction is a violation of the Endangered Species Act.
But MSLF disagrees. “These families have cared for the land far longer and far better than any agency or activist has,” said Brian Gregg, MSLF’s lead attorney in Western Livestock Journal. “The Green River Drift provides 124 years of evidence that ranchers are the real conservationists.”
Lethal removals of grizzlies are rare and are used as a last resort. Between 2010 and 2014, were 14 were removed from the area and four were female. Lethal removal of grizzlies has been legal in the Upper Green River Area Rangeland Project Area since 1999.
Ranchers in the area believe stopping this cattle drive would have a direct impact on their finances because it would cause them to reduce the size of their herds to a level that is not economically viable, resulting in a loss of millions of dollars to their cattle operations, which, they argue, would outweigh the consequences of the selective grizzly bear removals.