June 29, 2012
This week, the House Appropriations Committee began its markup on the fiscal year (FY) 2013 Department of Interior, Environment and Related Agencies appropriations bill and it passed favorably out of committee. The bill passed by a vote of 26-19 and included 12 amendments that were voted on during the markup. The amendments included in the bill are available at http://appropriations.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=301337 along with the full text and the committee report.
In a surprising and unfortunate move, Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) decided to remove section 423, an extension of the bighorn sheep provision contained in last year's (FY 2012) appropriations measure that prohibited the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management from making decisions that negatively affect domestic sheep grazing due to the management of bighorn sheep.
Officials of the American Sheep Industry Association expressed serious disappointment that this provision was eliminated. Nearly one quarter of U.S. sheep production is at stake in this conflict -- truly a west-wide impact on sheep ranches and a national issue in regard to the loss of lamb and wool needed to maintain processing, infrastructure and service to accounts.
Following is a piece from Simpson's opening statement referencing the bighorn provision.
"I got involved in this issue because I care deeply for our ranchers and for the tribes and sportsmen who work so hard on bighorn sheep conservation. I got involved to find a reasonable solution and tried to work with ranchers, hunters and land management agencies to solve this problem. Fighting over this problem serves no purpose and does not benefit hunting or ranching. As a result, I am pulling this provision. However, I am only doing this to have all interested parties come to the table and work with me on a solution. Too often, one side or the other is satisfied with the status quo. In this case, it is not acceptable-and losing part of our heritage, whether it be bighorn sheep in Idaho or ranchers in Idaho-is not an option," said Simpson.
He continued to say he intends to convene meetings of all interested parties and work toward a less-controversial and more-collaborative solution that does not pose a threat to bighorn sheep or put ranching families out of business.
The bill approved by the full House Appropriations Committee does contain extensive language related to bighorn research and inter-agency cooperation and periodical reports to Congress on the progress of the research.
It is not anticipated that the interior bill will go to the House floor before the August recess and maybe not before the November election.