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Ranchers- Government discriminates against cattle

DAYVILLE, Ore. (AP)--To protect fish, the U.S. government discriminates against cows but lets elk and wild horses do whatever they want even if the wild beasts do at least as much damage to sensitive streams.

Or so say Dayville cattle ranchers Loren and Piper Stout.

Last year, after a lawsuit from environmental groups, a court ordered the two and others to remove their cattle from U.S. Forest Service land along Murderers Creek and its tributaries until the suit is resolved.

The creeks are home to middle Columbia River steeled protected by the Endangered Species Act.

Now the Stouts say they will sue the Forest Service, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies under the federal act.

Those agencies are allowing wild horse and elk populations to swell, their notice says, and those beasts trample the creek bank, too.

The Stouts staked out grazing lands last year when there were no cattle allowed and found the wild horses and elk trampled banks more than cattle, said Loren Stout, 52.

Forty creased sites violated the governments bank alternation standards, Stout said.

Meanwhile the wild steelhead run is doing beautifully, the notice says, and normal restrictions on grazing keep cattle out of the creeks at crucial times for fish.

"What we're trying to do is show how ludicrous this standard is," he said.

Western ranchers say environmental groups are singling them out. But Dave Becker, staff attorney for the Oregon Natural Desert Association, said science shows that cattle damage streams and harm fish.

Cows wallow in streams more than horses and elk, he said. And habitat in the Murderers Creek area has improved since the cattle were sent packing, said Beaker, whose group also is suing over the streamed grazing.

The Stouts' notice says the Forest Service is maintaining wild horses at a potentially harmful level, with the population in the Masher National Forest topping 500, more than five times the standard.

The Stouts say last winter the elk count around Murderers Creek was more than triple ODFWs objective of 4.9 per square mile.

Scott Horngren, their attorney, said the agencies need to better manage elk and horses. If the Stouts win, elk would have to be killed off in large numbers and mustangs likely would be relocated.

But the overriding goal, he said, is to get the agencies to realize that bank trampling shouldn't automatically mean damage to fish.

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