Livestock Removal Success: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area

Name: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area
State(s): Oregon, Idaho
County(ies): Wallowa, Baker (OR); Nez Perce, Adams, and Idaho (ID)
Watershed(s): Snake River, Imnaha River, Big Sheep Creek, North Pine Creek, Joseph Creek
Ecosystem Type: Canyon grasslands: bluebunch wheatgrass/Idaho fescue/Sandberg's bluegrass; dry forests: ponderosa pine/Douglas fir/larch.
Species Benefited: Numerous native, uncommon, and endemic plant species; mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep; birds, including mountain quail, meadowlarks, ferruginous hawks; Savannah, Brewer's and vesper sparrows; the federally endangered Mirabilis macfarlanei (MacFarlane's four-o-clock); steelhead, spring/summer chinook, redband trout.
Federal Unit(s): The Hells Canyon National Recreation Area is located on the Wallowa-Whitman, Payette, and Nez Perce National Forests; the HCNRA is administered by the Wallowa-Whitman NF, and includes the Hells Canyon Wilderness.
Acreage: 245,782 acres of vacant grazing allotments closed under the new Comprehensive Management Plan, added to 54,900 acres already not in allotment status (total: 300,682 livestock-free acres). Grazing (mostly cattle, some domestic sheep) will continue on some portion (approximately 192,377 acres) of the remaining 320,629 acres in active allotment status in the HCNRA.
Method(s): Planning
Law(s) Invoked: Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Act; National Environmental Policy Act; Wilderness Act; Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
Term of Removal: Permanent (for the life of the new management plan, and probably forever after that)
Prime Mover(s): Hells Canyon CMP Tracking Group, Nez Perce Tribe
Summary Explanation:

In January 1994, a coalition of organizations and individuals called the Hells Canyon CMP Tracking Group formed and drafted the Native Ecosystem Alternative (NEA) as a complete alternative for the new Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP). The NEA proposed (among other recommendations) to close all vacant grazing allotments in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA). The Nez Perce Tribe supported and contributed to the NEA.

A long and often contentious planning process followed. The Forest Service produced two draft management plans over six years, both of which had preferred alternatives that proposed spreading cattle into the vacant allotments from adjacent active allotments. Conservationists challenged each of these plans and public comments overwhelmingly favored closure of the vacant allotments. The agency's final plan and environmental impact statement agreed to close the vacant allotments.

The new management plan places 300,682 acres into non-allotment status (of a total of 662,000 acres in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area), including 54,900 acres (the Seven Devils Mountains) that were already administratively retired from grazing. Most of the Snake River corridor in Hells Canyon, on both the Idaho and Oregon sides, from river to rim (5,000 feet) is now permanently livestock-free.

The new management plan and record of decision will replace the previous 1981 comprehensive management plan.