Rep. Mike Simpson (Idaho) included language into the fiscal year (FY) 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill that will halt the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management from actions on bighorn sheep that would result in reducing domestic sheep grazing for the next five years. The action is necessary to provide industry and researchers the necessary time to finalize implementation of promising vaccines to address disease issues, as well as strategies to implement best management practices to promote the coexistence of both species of sheep.
The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) is joined by a number of lamb and wool companies in supporting this language to preclude the threat to nearly one-fourth of the entire U.S. sheep industry that grazes on forest lands that is also considered habitat for bighorns. The $628 million contribution to the American economy and more than 7,200 jobs that the sheep industry supports would be threatened with the loss of this share of the sheep inventory.
Anti-grazing activists have used Forest Service regulations to remove sheep allotments, as exampled by the 2010 Payette Forest decision in Idaho in which thousands of sheep were removed and half of the ranches involved forced out of the business due to loss of grazing. USFS indicated to the industry that they plan for more directives in the coming year, but no announcement of how the language would not become another tool for activists to manipulate in the court system was made. Additionally, no plans have been put in place for alternative allotments that are not bighorn habitat.
"As exampled by company letters to Congress this month, thousands of jobs will be lost along with millions in annual sales with loss of more domestic sheep. Textile organizations that depend on our wool stated in letters that the loss would be unacceptable," stated Peter Orwick, ASI executive director.
Sheep producers and affiliated businesses are contacting all members of the U.S. House of Representatives to support the Simpson language in the FY 2012 Interior Appropriations, expected to come to the floor July 19-21. The language included in the bill by subcommittee chairman, Mike Simpson, was supported last week in the Appropriations Committee.
"All efforts now are to ensure the language remains in the final bill approved by the House," concluded Orwick. "We appreciate the companies from New York to South Carolina to the West Coast sharing with Congress the severe jeopardy that exists with the bighorn controversy."