Yesterday, Western Watersheds Project, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and The Wilderness Society filed a motion in in front of Judge Lynn B. Winmill in federal district court seeking to halt domestic sheep grazing on three allotments the Payette National Forest. In 2010, the Forest had agreed to phase in the closure of hundreds of thousands of acres of public land to grazing to protect Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from fatal diseases transmitted by domestic sheep. However, the agency intends to retreat from this plan by allowing grazing to continue in 2012 because of political pressure and a misreading of the language included in a rider on the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
The rider, inserted by Rep. Mike Simpson (ID) forbids the use of federal funds for, “[M]anagement restrictions on domestic sheep [on Forest Service lands] in excess of the management restrictions that existed on July 1, 2011.” The Payette Decision was finalized in 2010 and the management restrictions were already in place well before the rider’s deadline.
The Forest Service isn’t prevented from protecting bighorn this year, but has decided to go ahead and put Idaho’s wildlife in peril of contracting deadly respiratory diseases anyway. The agency’s backsliding benefits a single permittee but imperils bighorn in Hells Canyon and the Salmon River Canyon, where one of the last native herds exists.
Western Watersheds Project will continue to fight for wildlife on our public lands.
Thanks to Laurie Rule at Advocates for the West for representing us in this important effort !