A coalition of conservation groups filed suit on November 18 against the U.S. Forest Service to protect clean water in the Vedauwoo area of the Medicine Bow National Forest in southeastern Wyoming.
At issue is the Forest Service’s failure to halt ongoing water pollution in the Crow Creek watershed east of Laramie. Overgrazing has been causing water pollution. Although citizens have attempted to work with the Forest Service to address these issues, the agency has shown unwillingness to take action.
Jeremy Nichols of the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance said,”This is about whether the Forest Service is going to enforce safeguards meant to protect people and wildlife.”
Testing of water quality in 2002, 2003, and 2004 by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and the local conservation district found that domestic livestock grazing authorized by the Forest Service in the Vedauwoo area violated water quality standards. In particular, grazing was causing fecal coliform pollution in North Branch Crow Creek and Middle Crow Creek, both streams that contribute to Cheyenne’s drinking water supply. The presence of fecal coliform indicates that cow manure is polluting these streams and also indicates a health risk exists for individuals exposed to the water.
Despite reports of water pollution and associated health risks, the Forest Service has continued to allow overgrazing in the Vedauwoo area and water pollution has continued. According to the Forest Service’s own records, water quality standards were violated again this past summer in both the North Branch of Crow Creek and Middle Crow Creek.
“Three years straight of water quality violations shows the Forest Service isn’t protecting our water” added Earthjustice attorney Mike Harris. “Since the Forest Service won’t protect clean water, we will.”
In addition to providing clean water, the Vedauwoo area of the Medicine Bow is an extremely popular recreation spot. World renowned for its rock climbing, the area is popular for mountain biking, cross country skiing, hiking, camping, and picnicking. (Vist this link for images of the area.)
The area also supports abundant wildlife and fish populations, all of which depend on clean water.
“With sensitive fish and wildlife habitat on the line, the last thing the Forest Service should be allowing is overgrazing,” said Jacob Smith with Center for Native Ecosystems. “It’s unfortunate that good stewardship hasn’t been a priority.”
The coalition filing suit includes Biodiversity Conservation Alliance and Center for Native Ecosystems, and is being represented by the public interest law firm Earthjustice.
Images of the area — Click thumbnails for larger images.