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Author Topic: more idaho bighorn sheep news  (Read 685 times)

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more idaho bighorn sheep news
« on: April 05, 2010, 07:49:50 AM »
Apr. 3--The Idaho Wool Growers Association and sheep ranchers near Riggins have filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Fish and Game claiming the agency has failed to hold sheep ranchers harmless from bighorn sheep reintroductions.

The lawsuit, filed this week by the wool grower and sheep ranching outfit Shirts Brothers Sheep, claims the department has not lived up to its end of a 1997 agreement designed to protect the ranchers from negative effects of bighorn sheep introductions.

The agreement was between the wool growers on one side and the Department of Fish and Game along with wildlife agencies from bordering states, federal land management agencies and a bighorn sheep group on the other. It was reached just as the states, federal agencies and the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep were poised to reintroduce bighorns in a portion of Hells Canyon on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. It said ranchers would not be responsible if the reintroduced bighorn wandered out of the canyon and contracted diseases after coming in contact with domestic sheep.

The same year the Idaho Legislature passed a law codifying the agreement.

The lawsuit claims the agreement was honored for several years, but starting in 2007 the Forest Service began a process to reduce domestic sheep grazing in order to protect bighorns. The process is continuing with a Payette National Forest plan that could reduce grazing on the forest by 60 percent in order to protect bighorns in Hells Canyon and the Salmon River canyon.

"The Idaho Department of Fish and Game took no action to block the Forest Service from modifying the grazing allotments for Shirts and Shirts Brothers and took insufficient action to prevent Shirts and Shirts Brothers from being harmed by these actions," according to a line in the lawsuit.

The suit claims the ranchers have and will continue to suffer economic losses and asks for damages "in an amount to be proven at trial."

Officials from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game could not be reached late Friday afternoon for comment.

However, other members of the agreement have claimed it only applied to the 1997 reintroduction of bighorn sheep on the Wallowa-Whitman forest and is not valid because the federal agencies did not submit the agreement to public scrutiny nor author an environmental impact statement on its possible effects.

In 2005, then-chief of the Forest Service Dale Bosworth wrote the agreement did not apply to the Payette National Forest. Bosworth did so in a document overturning the Payette National Forest Plan that allowed domestic sheep grazing to continue unchanged despite concerns it would harm wild sheep populations. Since that time the forest has been working on a plan to ensure wild sheep and domestic sheep do not come in contact with each other.

Barker may be contacted at or at (208) 848-2273.


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