The following article was submitted to the Capital Press by Frank Priestly, president of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.
Citing the potential for recreational conflicts with sheep, the Ketchum Ranger District is making plans to cut more grazing on the Sawtooth National Forest.
It's a disturbing trend. Every year it seems there is some new obtuse reason to cut grazing on public land. In this case, the forest service is concerned about fishermen, hikers, bikers and others out recreating coming into conflicts with the guard dogs sheepherders keep with their flocks to protect them from wolves. They're also concerned that wolves might kill sheep and that will lead to government trappers and others killing wolves.
The Ketchum Ranger District's analysis at www.fs.usda.gov/projects/sawtooth/landmanagement/projects spells out details of dozens of potential conflicts and detrimental impacts of sheep grazing. The analysis states that sheep crossing streams 'could' harm water quality which 'could' harm fish, or sheep 'could' cause a vegetative disturbance that 'could' harm a stream bank. The analysis is 38 pages long in its entirety, and makes no mention of any of the benefits of grazing on the land, such as noxious weed control, enriching soils and fire suppression.
Where it fails as an analysis is in its complete lack of consideration for the effected livestock operators and the heritage of our state. This, along with continuing efforts to cut grazing on public lands leads us to believe that a bias against livestock producers exists inside the forest service, and has for some time. These ranchers are descendants of the first people who came to Idaho and created the economy that allowed all others to follow. That ought to matter to someone in the Ketchum Ranger District.
Sheep only graze on forest service land for a short time each summer. Grazing season runs from late June to early August on most allotments. We honestly hope that someone inside the forest service will stop to consider what Idaho has to lose by closing more grazing allotments and we sincerely hope they will conclude that our state's heritage matters.
The full article is available at www.capitalpress.com/article/20130903/ARTICLE/130909971.