Federal Judge Upholds Payette Bighorn Ruling
March 28, 2014

A federal judge ruled that a U.S. Forest Service (FS) plan to reduce domestic sheep grazing on the Payette National Forest by about 70 percent to protect bighorn sheep will remain in place.

Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge A. Wallace Tashima denied a motion by the sheep industry to overturn the 2010 decision by Payette National Forest Supervisor Suzanne Rainville aimed at separating domestic and bighorn sheep. Tashima ruled the FS had followed the preponderance of evidence that domestic sheep carry diseases to the wild sheep population.

In 2012, the Idaho Wool Growers Association (IWGA), American Sheep Industry Association, Public Lands Council, Wyoming Wool Growers Association and Colorado Wool Growers Association filed suit in federal court challenging the 2010 decision. The sheep industry contended the FS didn't adequately consider the environmental consequences of the plan as required by the National Environmental Protection Act; also arguing the agency failed to consider whether disease is transmitted between bighorn and domestic sheep, the effect reintroduced wolves have had on bighorns and if there are ways to increase bighorn sheep immunity to domestic diseases.

Tashima's 22-page decision rejected these arguments and said the agency did meet requirements in federal law in creating the plan. The order can be accessed at www.thewildlifenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Order.pdf.

"The decision is rather shortsighted," Harry Soulen, president of the IWGA and owner of Soulen Livestock Company, told an Associated Press reporter. "A number of us have lost our allotments or been forced out of the sheep business."

He said he doesn't believe domestic sheep are the causes of die-offs among bighorn sheep herds that contract pneumonia.

"To say that domestic sheep are causing the problem, that's running loose with your judgment of what you say science is," he said.

Soulen said it's unclear if sheep ranchers will appeal Tashima's ruling.

"We've got to study this before we make that decision one way or another," he said.

Reprinted in part from the Idaho Statesman