The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) responded to a request for public comment from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department on the planned evaluation of the Greenhorn Mountain bighorn sheep reintroduction and regarding domestic sheep trailing on the Robb-Ledford Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
For several years, anti-livestock organizations have used bighorn sheep habitat as a surrogate to remove domestic sheep grazing allotments, in spite of the fact that every state in the West has had disease issues in bighorn populations that are entirely unrelated to domestic sheep contact. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that more than 20 million acres of bighorn habitat is under its oversight with less than a million acres having any connection to domestic sheep grazing.
Secondly, ASI stated in its comments, trailing sheep to summer grazing involves several men herding the sheep, sheep working dogs, a number of livestock protection dogs, sheep wagons and horses. Due to the rapid movement through the country and the sheer commotion of all the men and animals, industry experience says contact between the two species is highly unlikely.
ASI fully supports the Montana Wool Growers Association's efforts to continue domestic sheep trailing on the Robb-Ledford WMA as well as the sheep producers whom would be affected by a negative decision. Producers who currently use trailing privileges across the Rob-Ledford WMA do so to move or "trail" their sheep from one allotment to another and not to utilize the area for grazing.
In conclusion, ASI stated that quality and balanced research should be conducted and only peer-reviewed, objective and sound science should be used as the basis for decisions regarding the management of domestic and bighorn sheep.