Online Messenger #234(view with pictures, as displayed in email)
Early This Week the Payette National Forest Confirmed a Sighting of a Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Ewe on the Grassy Mountain Sheep Allotment Northwest of McCall, Idaho
Prior to this confirmed sighting, no bighorn sheep had been observed on the Grassy Mountain allotment in many decades.
The Grassy Mountain allotment is one of the domestic sheep allotments closed by the Payette National Forest in their recent very controversial (but welcome) decision to better protect Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from the risk of disease transmission from domestic sheep. 2012 is the first year in over 100 years that no domestic sheep grazing has taken place on that allotment.
You will recall that Western Watersheds Project joined in litigation (well-represented by our attorney Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West) to force the Payette National Forest to complete the domestic sheep closure decision and to support the Forest thereafter.
In June 2012 WWP was successful in overturning a Congressional Rider that sought to keep the domestic sheep allotments open. Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID-2) then initiated a new Congressional rider but eventually decided not to pursue that approach to force domestic sheep back on the public lands of the Payette National Forest.
Another probable outcome of this confirmed sighting of a bighorn sheep is that under the Payette Forest Plan, the Forest must now review all active domestic sheep allotments located within 10 kilometers of the allotment where the confirmed bighorn sighting occurred and decide before the start of grazing next year whether to close those as well. This directive affects two other domestic sheep allotments, Slab Butte and Cougar Creek, that were not closed by the Payette National Forest in its earlier decision.
Those two additional allotments could be closed by next Spring!