A Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) issued in September 2008 by the U.S. Forest Service (FS) in regard to grazing in the Payette National Forest brought strong comments from the U.S. livestock industry this week.
The SEIS proposes to eliminate domestic sheep grazing on all but four domestic sheep allotments within the Payette Forest. This equates to two-thirds of all domestic sheep grazing in the forest, putting at least four permittees out of business.
The joint document transmitted 62 specific comments to the SEIS relaying not only the potential for severe damage to the ranching industry in Idaho and the affected families but also questioning much of the rationale that was employed in developing the draft. Industry comments pointed out numerous inadequacies in the analysis, inconsistencies between the statute and court decisions and the draft as well as flaws in the analysis used.
"According to the laws governing the FS and the National Environmental Policy Act, the agency should really be promoting immunity in bighorn sheep rather than the elimination of domestic sheep," said Clint Krebs (Ore.), secretary/treasurer for the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). "Multiple use means multiple use."
Domestic sheep are being blamed for health issues in bighorns which can be explained by their lack of exposure to diseases common throughout the West today. Ultimately, if the bighorns are going to survive, they will need to develop their own resistance. The animal rights activists are using the fact that bighorn sheep do not have the immune system necessary to survive in today's world to try to stop domestic sheep grazing on public lands.
Krebs, who served as ASI's Resource Management Council co-chair last year and who worked with industry leaders and interested parties throughout the winter, relays, "These comments are important to the future of sheep production in the state of Idaho. Honestly, due to the volume of sheep grazing that would be lost, this decision would impact the entire industry.
"I am pleased we had the opportunity to offer the views and perspectives of the sheep industry and provide the supporting evidence in this case."
ASI funded the legal assistance for the completion of the comments and appreciates the support of the 17 organizations that joined in this endeavor. Joining ASI in submitting the comments included the California Wool Growers Association, Colorado Wool Growers Association, F.I.M. Corporation, Idaho Wool Growers Association, Krebs Livestock LLC, Montana Wool Growers Association, National Lamb Feeders Association, Nevada Wool Growers Association, New Mexico Federal Lands Council, New Mexico Wool Growers Inc., Oregon Sheep Growers Association, Public Lands Council, Soulen Livestock Co., Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers' Association, Utah Wool Growers Association, Washington State Sheep Producers and Wyoming Wool Growers Association.
Staff contact: Peter Orwick, Ext. 33