The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI), the Montana Wool Growers Association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association and the Public Lands Council wrote to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to express concern with S. 1470, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act of 2009.
The bill directs the secretaries of agriculture and the interior to select areas on which to carry out landscape-scale restoration projects on National Forest System land in Montana for reclaiming or converting roads into recreational trails, restoring fish and wildlife habitat, replacing or resizing culverts, generating revenue for the investment of funds into fish and wildlife restoration and maintenance initiatives and maintaining the infrastructure of wood products manufacturing facilities.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) has a long history of providing excellent science for improving sheep production efficiency and understanding ecosystem processes. Research at the station is focused on improving the genetic merit of sheep, developing sheep grazing strategies to mitigate the invasion of exotic weeds and enhancing ecological sustainability of rangelands.
S. 1470 is of concern for the USSES. The livestock groups request that the USSES land be allowed to continue to develop much-needed research to support domestic producers rather than be included into the "Wilderness Area" designated by Section 201. USSES must remain under the jurisdiction and management of ARS.
Other concerns included the need to manage the number of authorized livestock in an area based on facts; ensuring the transferability of permits in the same manner as previously done; allow motorized vehicles to administer grazing permits; protect the trailing of sheep through the areas proposed for wilderness designation; and a system to manage weeds and provide for weed control.