A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a western Idaho rancher to keep his sheep off his family's traditional grazing ground on public land to protect wild bighorns.
In his 17-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill wrote that a pact between a Salmon River rancher and the state to keep his domestic flock away from wild bighorns on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allotment fell short of the 2009 legislature's new law aimed at protecting Idaho's ranching industry and helping bighorns.
Winmill ruled in favor of the animal rights groups, which contended a native bighorn sheep herd near Riggins was at risk of catching deadly diseases if the allotment near Partridge Creek opened on schedule Thursday.
His order is in place until at least Nov. 2, when Winmill plans another hearing.
This year, Idaho lawmakers passed a plan requiring the state Department of Fish and Game director to certify that the risk of disease transmission between bighorn and domestic sheep was "acceptable for the viability of the bighorn sheep" once ranchers and the state had crafted Best Management Practices (BMP) to keep the two species apart on the range.
The state and rancher, whose family has grazed the Partridge Creek allotment since 1937, negotiated such an agreement in August. Among other things, he agreed to have two herders, three guard dogs and three herding dogs with each band of sheep. He was also allowed to kill bighorns that wandered into his herd.
In his ruling, however, Winmill said the agreement relied on voluntary compliance and couldn't be enforced by the BLM.
Reprinted in part from Associated Press