Settlement Reached in Sheep Research Station Lawsuit
February 7, 2014
Federal wildlife officials must conduct another assessment to determine the effect that sheep grazing at a southwestern Montana research station have on grizzly bears in the area.
The requirement is part of a settlement of a May 2013 lawsuit filed by the Western Watersheds Project and four other environmental activist groups. The groups argued that a November 2011 biological opinion that determined the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station would not jeopardize grizzly bears did not take into account the deaths of several grizzly bears over the past eight years.
Grizzly bears have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 1975. The act requires that agencies properly assess the effects of federal projects on the survival of listed species.
The settlement was approved by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Idaho on Feb. 1. It gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service until June 1 to issue a new opinion. The government cannot graze sheep on summer pastures in Montana before July 1.
The settlement also entitles plaintiffs to reasonable costs and attorney fees.
The American Sheep Industry Association, the Idaho Wool Growers Association and the Montana Wool Growers Association were intervenors in the legal action in defense of the station.
The experimental station was established in 1918 for breeding and grazing research.
Reprinted in part from The Missoulian