May 11, 2007
May 11, 2007 - Last week during the American Sheep Industry Association's (ASI) spring trip to Washington, D.C., producers were given the opportunity to met with Forest Service (FS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials to discuss resource management concerns facing the sheep industry.
A recurring concern of the livestock industry in the West is the availability of grazing permits on FS and BLM lands. In February, the BLM updated its relinquishment policy to better manage vacated permits.
"Livestock grazing is a tool we use to help manage the landscape," said Rob Roudabush, BLM acting chief of rangeland resources.
Another point of concern discussed was the growing number of conflicts between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep. Several environmental groups have filed a lawsuit in Idaho against the FS requesting the removal of domestic sheep grazing in bighorn sheep habitat. The Public Lands Council (PLC) has entered that suit with the Idaho Wool Growers Association and will be filing an amicus brief in support of the FS.
"This has been a top issue for PLC due to the potential threat it poses for western sheep production," said PLC executive director, Jeff Eisenberg.
Other species of concern discussed were the Mexican gray wolf and its reintroduction into Arizona and New Mexico. Bryan Arroyo, deputy assistant director of FWS, echoed producers' concerns for more flexible management of the wolves and better compensation for livestock losses. The Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf, grizzly bears and sage grouse were also discussed.
In contrast, praises were given for the sheep industry's prescribed grazing program and new handbook. Janette Kaiser, director of rangeland management for the FS, has been a great voice of support for prescribed grazing and suggested pilot projects as a tool to call greater attention to the benefits of targeted grazing.
"These meeting were a great opportunity to update producers with the latest agency information and share industry concerns with top agency officials," commented Rebecca Thompson, associate director of resource management for ASI. Staff contact: Rebecca Thompson, 202-879-9135