WWP Acts to Protect Bighorn Sheep in Central Idaho

WWP Online Messenger # 158

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On Wednesday September 23, 2009 Western Watersheds Project and our allies at the Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the Wilderness Society filed an emergency motion in federal District Court in Boise, Idaho for injunctive relief seeking an immediate closure of the Bureau of Land Management's Partridge Creek allotment located adjacent to the south side of the Salmon River 7 miles east of Riggens, Idaho. The Partridge Creek allotment is scheduled to be grazed by domestic sheep beginning on October 15, 2009. The intent of the litigation is to protect the struggling native bighorn sheep populations that inhabit the Salmon River Canyon in central Idaho. Those populations have diminished by 70% in the last 25 years primarily due to the transmission of fatal disease from domestic sheep grazing on heavily subsidized public land allotments.

View Partridge Creek Allotment in a larger map

The Partridge Creek allotment is sandwiched between Forest Service allotments, including the Allison-Berg allotment to the north, that have been closed to domestic sheep grazing by the Forest Service for the last three years because of WWP initiated litigation that raised the issue of the risk of disease transmission from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep. Unlike its sister agency, the BLM refuses to take similar action to protect bighorn sheep thereby threatening the only remaining native bighorn sheep population in Idaho with potential extirpation.

WWP and our co-plaintiff’s have excellent legal representation in this case from Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West’s Boise office.

The Legal Filings have been made available on WWP's website on the following page:

WWP Files New Litigation to Block Domestic Sheep Turn-out on the BLM Partridge Creek allotment this Fall

Donate now to support WWP's work to preserve Idaho's last native bighorn sheep

Brief Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Disease Risk Background

Scientists and land managers have known for decades that domestic sheep grazing on public land spreads deadly disease to the West's cherished bighorn sheep populations. In Idaho, bighorn sheep numbers have dwindled to around 3,500 wild sheep, half of their population in 1990 and a mere fraction of their historic numbers in the state.

Despite this fact, public land and wildlife managers are held under enormous pressure from the domestic sheep industry and local politicians to deny the clear threat to bighorns public land domestic sheep grazing poses. The industry has invested enormously in 'muddying-the-waters' of the overwhelming scientific consensus that domestic sheep coming into contact with bighorn sheep can result in significant die-offs of wild bighorn sheep.

Earlier this year, the state of Idaho passed S1232 into law. In an effort to ensure Idaho sheepmen's continued use of federal public land, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game is mandated by this law to develop voluntary "Best Management Practices" (BMPs) . However, the BMPs are not enforceable and leading bighorn biologists deny their ability to ensure separation between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep.