The USDA Agricultural Research Service’s US Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) near Dubois, Idaho has been in existence since Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Warren G. Harding started to withdraw land from the public domain for the USSES to conduct research to support the sheep industry in 1915. Until Western Watersheds Project and the Center for Biological Diversity sued the USSES, they had never conducted a proper analysis of their operations as required by the National Environmental Policy Act.  They began their analysis in 2009 as part of a settlement agreement with WWP and CBD and produced an Environmental Analysis which found that the impacts of the Station were significant enough that they needed to go further and produce an in-depth Environmental Impact Statement which is in its draft stage.

The USSES owns five parcels comprised of 48,330 acres and utilizes several other Forest Service and BLM allotments.

From: U.S. Sheep Experiment Station Grazing and Associated Activities Project 2010
Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The sheep research station (Headquarters, Henninger and Humphrey Ranches) is located in the upper Snake River plain at the foothills of the Centennial Mountains, approximately six miles north of Dubois, Idaho, which is the Clark County seat. The East and West Summer Ranges are in the Centennial Mountains of Montana (Beaverhead County). Through memoranda of understanding, the Sheep Station also utilizes the Mudlake Feedlot (Department of Energy) and several allotments: Bernice (BLM); and Meyers Creek, East Beaver Creek, Snakey Canyon, and Kelly Canyon (Forest Service)

View All ARS used lands.kmz in a larger map

Because the USDA is not permitted to produce sheep for market, the sheep experimented on and grazed there are owned by the University of Idaho who receives the proceeds and subsidies from the surplus sheep sold to market.

The location of the lands used by the USSES are particularly important to many species because of their value as dispersal corridors.  Wolves, grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, wolverines, and many other species require these landscapes to maintain or establish connectivity between habitat in Yellowstone and Central Idaho.  Bighorn sheep, which are increasingly becoming isolated in island populations, are particularly affected by the presence of domestic sheep in the Centennial Mountains and areas to the west because of fatal disease issues.  They are at risk of contact on the BLM Bernice Allotment and the USFS Snakey and Kelly Canyon allotments which have occupied bighorn sheep habitat.  There is also a small group of bighorn sheep which use Mt. Jefferson on the east end of the Centennial Mountains adjacent to the ARS East Summer Range.

On August 16th the Sheep Station held an open house event which was attended by about 30 people.  Rather than talking about the Draft EIS, the tour was intended to tout what the Sheep Experiment Station does.  Larry Zuckerman and I attended the event Larry writes about it below in his response to NRDC’s blog posting by Zac Madson, and I write a a response to a heated discussion which took place between myself and the USSES director Gregory Lewis, and a little about the visits I’ve taken over the last few years as part of a settlement agreement from litigation.

Ken Cole

————————–

Reading Zac Madson’s recent essay Growing Better Sheep: Bears, Wolves, and Rangeland Management, a personal account of the recent U.S. Sheep Experiment Station tour in Dubois, Idaho, I needed to check twice if we shared the same experience. Yes, Ken Cole (WWP), Zac Madson (NRDC), and I (as were some 30 or so ranchers, government officials, NGO conservationists, and university professors) were on the same tour on August 16, 2011… and yes, we even boarded the same big yellow school buses, took the same carefully controlled designated routes, made the same three stops, and heard from politically-correct university researchers on how great the USSES was – at least for basic, ecological research involving experimental manipulations that are publishable in peer-reviewed scientific journals – not really domestic sheep production applied research at all. I checked the digital images from my camera and yep… we were all on the same “dog-and-pony show” orchestrated for the public by the USDA Agricultural Resources Service.

The public relations arm of the ARS and its cooperators was in fine form that day and if WWP had not worked with Center for Biological Diversity’s attorney Marc Fink on scoping comments for a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that was released a few days before the tour, you would have never known that there was any environmental controversy or wildlife conflicts with ARS’ Sheep Experiment Station. Discussing the DEIS, our legal settlement with ARS to conduct NEPA for the first time on the USSES, and other wildlife and public lands controversies were off the table and appeared strictly taboo – even for the cooperating university professors. There was a chill in the air – and it wasn’t the hot, August weather hovering over Eastern Idaho.

Most of the presenters, officials, and participants seemed to have on blinders… or at least rose-tinted glasses – to help present a more positive, cheery impression of the ARS’ century-old experimental sheep station. What else that was not discussed and for the most part, even noticed – except for Ken and I – were the acres of weed infestations (e.g., thistles, spotted knapweed, cheatgrass and leafy spurge), 47 dead migratory birds floating in an old, mosquito-infested (West Nile Virus?) cement livestock watering, and miles and miles of fences with high densities of cross fences to establish the experimental paddocks that litter the landscape – none adorned with BMP-recommended visibility enhancers like plastic flagging, especially in consideration of the high density of sage-grouse leks on the lower elevation Dubois ARS lands; and several expensive disinfection sites to potentially cleanse oneself of Q Fever, which plagues the USSES from infected sheep.

Water cistern with 47 dead birds and a small mammal. Click for larger view.

Water cistern with 47 dead birds and a small mammal. Click for larger view.

What we did not hear in response to our questions were: How do you prevent the sheep from spreading noxious weeds from this relatively intact sagebrush steppe ecosystem? How many stock tanks (without escape ladders or rafts) are there on the Experiment Station? How many imperiled sage-grouse die every year from these fences and what impact on wild ungulates and other wildlife does the sheep fencing have? How many wolves and grizzly bears have been killed (or non-lethally Taken) because of predation and other perceived conflicts with Station sheep? How do the experimental manipulations affect regionally sensitive pygmy rabbits, sage-grouse, and other wildlife?

ARS clearly indicated that they do not monitor sage-grouse mortalities related to their maze of sheep fences. They obviously do not control noxious weeds or ensure that the sheep bands don’t continue to spread them from the Snake River Plain into the high country of the Centennials. The pat answer provided by ARS was that wildlife and the impacts of the USSES’ operation were outside of its mandate and legislative purview as a sheep research center. It was a real eye-opener to hear the manager of this arm of the USDA on vast government-owned lands speak like he was the CEO for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals or the head of R&D for Monsanto: “capitalize on our research investment and protect our intellectual property” – publications must appear in print before they release the public datasets and results of the publicly funded research conducted in Dubois. The 28,000-acre station, although Federal property, is not open to the public, even for a harmless hike or bird watching outing.

The most outrageous, possibly naive, probably dodge, was when Greg Lewis, the director, repeatedly and adamantly claimed that they were not responsible for any wolf or grizzly bear kills (except for one wolf killed while trapping stinkin’ coyotes on USSES) but rather they just did their duty and reported wolf-sheep conflicts to another arm of the USDA – Wildlife Services, the paid government wildlife killing agents, who have killed wolves in and near the Dubois station – including the entire Sage Creek Pack.  Lewis refused to abandon the higher elevation grazing including two public allotments where much of the wildlife conflicts and enviros’ complaints about USSES stem from – claiming it was necessary for their support of the sheep industry with their research – even though the ARS has obviously moved away that type of applied research and management recommendations and has little to do with the domestic sheep industry in the Northern Rockies.

Even if their research efforts and management of the station had some relevance to the real domestic sheep grazing industry (USSES grazes bands of only 600 with supposedly 5-15% utilization, supposedly regularly moves stockwater tanks to avoid environmental damage, and moves sheep when conflicts with wolves or grizzly bears are detected), there was little hope that sheep ranchers would implement any improvements (ARS researchers find that sheep can control leafy spurge if they graze it before it goes to seed, but admitted to us that sheep will spread weeds if they graze or trail through them after they have gone to seed).

The biggest omission despite the ARS’ Dubois, ID mission, history, and evident infrastructure were sheep! We did not see one of the 3,500 domestic lambs or 3,000 ewes that are owned by the University of Idaho (“USDA cannot be in the sheep production business” – but somehow, the U of I can!) in all the thousands of acres of sagebrush steppe we viewed from the buses and on foot. That’s because the sheep, South American sheepherders, herding dogs, and vicious guard dogs were in the Centennial Mountains, where also gray wolves, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears earn their “livings” as they have for millennia. We did see some sheep dung as well as some of the Idaho dwindling industry’s biggest players – like Margaret Soulen Hinson, the President of the American Sheep Industry Association and part owner of Soulen Livestock with the LT. Governor’s wife Teresa Little, which received payments totaling $1,246,818 from 1995 through 2010 of U.S. tax dollars in sheep grazing subsidies, Ken Wixom, who received subsidy payments totaling $764,115 from 1995 through 2010, and is President of the Idaho Woolgrowers Association – who is looking to fund the NEPA process in hopes to reopen closed sheep allotments in the Boise National Forest  -, Jim Hagenbarth, who echoed Zac’s empty point of being descended from several generations of Northern Rockies sheep growers, who devastated thousands of acres of public and private lands and killed native predators for more than a century, and state livestock apologist Ron Kay of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

I read Zac’s bio and his background information and in response I must say: I am a third generation American (all four grandparents from Kiev, Ukraine); not a native –like the displaced Salmon Eaters (“Akai-dikas”) of Sacajewea fame (now known by the misnomer of Lemhi Shoshone or government-created Shoshone-Bannock Tribes), Sheep Eaters (“Tuku-dikas”), bighorn sheep, or the gray wolves, grizzly bears, and coyotes that Zac writes of; but rather a transplant from the Northeast who has chosen to call Idaho and the West home, but who also enjoys public lands and wildlife wherever they occur in North America, whether I ever get to experience them directly or not.

If people must raise domestic sheep, why not on their own land, without government subsidies, out of harms way of bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, and gray wolves, and without destroying the wild public lands and rivers that belong to all Americans. I might agree that domestic sheep ranchers are a dying breed in the U.S…. and it might just be better for native wildlife, public lands, healthy ecosystems, and the rest of us taxpayers.

If it is too much of a challenge as Zac points out; then get out of the business. The empty threats of subdivisions in place of subsidized sheep ranches in Idaho’s High Deserts – are just that; empty, particularly during this recession with little or no housing starts and thousands of foreclosures every month. What would be more economically enlightened, at least over the hill in the Lemhi River Basin would be a real choice between highly subsidized, ecologically-unsustainable domestic livestock production or preserving the family ranch by removing the Snake River Dams and restoring native Chinook salmon, steelhead, and extinct Coho salmon runs and all the angler money that were flow upstream with them and minimum instream flows. Perhaps, a similar solution involving trophy native Westslope cutthroat trout or Montana fluvial grayling restorations might help the beleaguered Hagenbarth and his descendants retain the vast family land holdings in Idaho and Montana.

Zac and NRDC, as well as other well-intentioned “collaborators” like Trout Unlimited and The Nature Conservancy, are misdirected when they preach “Better Living Through Improved Grazing” – it is like when DOW Chemical propaganda designed to sway the American public with “Better Living Through Chemistry” – Don’t buy it for the Arid American West, Caveat Emptor! How quickly we forget history like when collaborator during WWII was equated with traitor. How much more compromise can the endangered West and its iconic wildlife stand, after more than a century of dismal failures and resource over-exploitation?

Larry Zuckerman

———————–

When visiting the USSES lands in 2009 with personnel from a special USFS team assembled to conduct NEPA analysis for agencies who don’t have their own personnel experienced in such matters, I was able to become familiar with much of the landscape and issues surrounding the Station.  While at first glance all seems to be well as far as ecological condition, it soon became evident that there are some chronic and longstanding issues that are hidden from view to the casual viewer.

Weeds and erosion of steep areas repeatedly used for trailing were of particular concern but so was the evidence of unaccounted sheep left behind in country where they could habituate predators to them as a food source or be encountered by bighorn sheep. Wildlife unfriendly fencing and drastically changed plant communities were also apparent.

On one visit, I brought up the question of wolves on one day and the USFS team didn’t know much about the history of conflicts there.  The next morning we met at the Humphrey Ranches parcel near Monida Pass and they reported to me that they asked one of the long time employees responsible for the Station about it who told them that wolves had never been much of a problem for the sheep.  Just a few minutes later an employee of the NRCS happened by and got into a conversation with the group and just happened to mention, out of the blue, that wolves had been killing USSES sheep for the last several nights right near where we were.  Later in the day we stopped in a little store in Spencer where the clerk asked what we were all up to.  When one of the team members told them they were there to do some work on the USSES she mentioned that it seemed like the place operated under a cloud of secrecy and didn’t tell the locals much about what was going on there.  She did happen to hear about an incident a few years earlier where wolves had killed a bunch of sheep.  Needless to say, I and a few of the team members seemed a little miffed that we all had been led to believe otherwise.

While at the August 16 open house, I got into a heated discussion with Gregory Lewis, director of the USSES, who adamantly claimed that wolves had not been killed because of conflicts  with USSES sheep.  He claimed that the USSES never asked for wolves to be killed in response to these conflicts but that they were reported to “the proper authorities” who later killed the Sage Creek Pack.  Mr. Lewis either doesn’t understand that when livestock is killed by wolves Wildlife Services is eager to jump into their airplane and gun down a bunch of wolves, or he conveniently refuses to acknowledge that wolves like to kill sheep and that the presence of the sheep and the Station’s poor animal husbandry of them caused the conflict in the first place.  Regardless, the Sage Creek Pack was doomed from the minute they were presented with these unattended, tasty little morsels.

I complied a bunch of information gleaned from various reports which show that shortly after the incident at the Humphrey Ranches parcel, the Sage Creek Pack was terminated, not solely for killing USSES sheep but in large part for that.  This is why, as you’ll see from Larry Zuckerman’s telling of our most recent visit, I was a little miffed at being challenged when I said that conflicts with USSES sheep were responsible for the death of the Sage Creek Pack.

From: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=38521

“On 6/8, Idaho WS confirmed a sheep was killed on the U. S. Sheep Station near Humphrey, ID. The pack thought responsible is called Sage Creek and it is a border pack. ID WS heard the Sage Creek radio within about ½ mile of the depredation site. ID Fish and Game authorized ID WS to remove 1 wolf. The pack has since moved back into Montana and MT FWP has given ID WS or MT WS staff authorization to work on either side of the state line.

From: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=39089

On 6/16, ID WS killed a member of the Sage Creek pack in Montana, as authorized by FWP. Back on 6/8, Idaho WS confirmed a sheep was killed on the U. S. Sheep Station near Humphrey, ID. The pack thought responsible is called Sage Creek and it is a border pack. MT FWP has given ID WS or MT WS staff authorization to work on either side of the state line. Lethal control is completed. FWP and IDFG are taking steps to improve coordination on border packs that are confirmed to have injured / killed livestock.

From: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=39335

On 7/16, IDFG called FWP (Ross) and reported that the Sage Creek pack (a MT-ID border pack that is counted in the MT population) had killed another sheep on the Experimental Sheep Station near Humphrey ID. FWP agreed to the IDFG request for lethal control and granted permission for IDWS to work within MT and to coordinate their work with MT WS. One adult male was killed on 7/23.

On 7/23, FWP (Lance) coordinated with ID Fish and Game and ID WS regarding confirmed sheep killed near Humphrey ID by a wolf pack that is a “border” pack. This pack resides in ID and is considered an ID pack, though it occasionally travels in Montana. IDFG had authorized full pack removal. FWP authorized ID WS to carry out lethal control efforts in MT should the wolves be found in MT and requested ID WS to coordinate their work with MT WS. ID WS killed one adult wolf about 1 mile across the state border into MT on 7/23. The carcass will be retained by IDFG as a part of their pack management / data collection effort.

From: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=39619

On 7/30, IDFG contacted FWP to report that 13 buck sheep were confirmed killed just across the MTID border in ID on the sheep experiment station. This is the same area as previous sheep losses on 6/10 and 7/16, totaling six dead sheep. The Sage Creek pack is suspected to have a rendezvous site 1-3 miles away from the sheep pasture on the ID side of the border, but the pack dens in Montana and is considered a Montana pack. FWP has been coordinating with IDFG since June. There is also close coordination between IDFG, ID WS and MT WS. FWP and IDFG decided to authorize removal of up to three adult wolves, which is ongoing. Monitoring suggests that two adults and a litter of pups would remain when this lethal control effort concludes.

Correction: FWP previously reported that a MT-ID border pack east of I-15 was a border pack that was counted in the ID population. After 3 incidents in which at least 10 sheep were killed in the Middle Creek / Pleasant Valley areas on the ID side of the border, MT FWP and IDFG decided to authorize lethal removal of the rest of the pack. During the control efforts, it was learned that the pack had indeed denned on the MT side of the state border and will in fact be counted / reported as a Montana pack – and not an ID pack. All control efforts concluded by 7/23, with the removal of an adult male and 6 pups.

From: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=39690

On 8/3, IDWS confirmed that wolves killed 7 buck sheep on the ID sheep experiment station near Humphrey in the same area as previous losses occurred on 6/10, 7/16, and 8/3. FWP had authorized removal of up to three adult wolves, which was completed by ID WS on 8/4.

The final straw for the Sage Creek Pack comes from this incident: http://fwp.mt.gov/content/getItem.aspx?id=39997

On 8/17 WS confirmed one calf and had a second calf as probable killed by wolves in the West Fork of Corral Creek (public land) on the south side of the Centennial Valley in Montana and near the Idaho border. This is in the territory of the Sage Creek pack. This pack has been involved in confirmed livestock losses in Montana and Idaho in 2009. Six adult wolves have been killed thus far and with this newly confirmed incident, MT WS has been authorized to remove the remaining pack members.

Ken Cole

Previous entries on the USSES:

Sheep Experiment Station produces its first environmental analysis (EA) in its history
December 22, 2009

Sheep Station Restricts Grazing to Protect Grizzly Bears
April 6, 2010

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About The Author

Larry Zuckerman

Larry Zuckerman is the Central Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project in Salmon, Idaho, who enjoys fly-fishing in the Rockies whenever he gets a chance (rarely), and usually is not in the habit of opposing the views of other environmental organizations.

9 Responses to U.S Sheep Experiment Station – An Alternative View

  1. avatar Nancy says:

    +If people must raise domestic sheep, why not on their own land, without government subsidies, out of harms way of bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, and gray wolves, and without destroying the wild public lands and rivers that belong to all Americans. I might agree that domestic sheep ranchers are a dying breed in the U.S…. and it might just be better for native wildlife, public lands, healthy ecosystems, and the rest of us taxpayers+

    Thanks Larry. I can only hope the “pave paradise, put up a parking lot” crowd, so prevalent in society today, take these kinds of observation to heart, before its too late……

  2. It is time to close the Sheep Experiment station. The last thing I read about it; it was about how many homosexual rams they raised.
    The entire operation starting with the U of Idaho owning the sheep and getting the federal subsidy for lamb meat and wool sounds like a scam.
    The Bernice allotment and the Snakey Canyon allotment (that they use free of charge from the BLM and Forest Service) are prime Bighorn Sheep habitat. I suggested both areas as Bighorn transplant sites back in 1970 when I was hired to find suitable sites by the IDFG. Bighorns were later released in both area and have since suffered due to putting domestic sheep back into both areas.
    I will always remember getting out of my truck in (the well named) Snakey Canyon and having a large rattlesnake buzz at me as I took my first few steps away from the truck.

  3. avatar Rob Sisson says:

    With the verdant, abundant pastures of the Great Plains and east half of our nation, there is simply no logical reason to graze domestic animals on arid ground. The only way it is economically feasible is with the massive federal subsidy in leasing, water resources, etc. Remove taxpayer subsidies and these practices will change quickly.

    See http://www.greenscissors.com for more specifics.

  4. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    I received this email alert about the Sheep Station just now from a long time wildlife activist.
    – – – – –
    All:

    The Centennial Mountains are a vital wildlife corridor on wild lands owned by all Americans and they are not the place to run domestic sheep. Conflicts with bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, sage grouse and other wildlife can not be avoided. Please comment on this ill-advised proposal.

    The Agriculture Research Station (ARS) located on the south side of the Centennial Mountains on the Montana Idaho border and headquartered at Dubois, Idaho is undergoing an environmental review. The preferred alternative is NO CHANGE, which means continued federal expenditures to feed domestic sheep across a vast landscape of wild public lands in Montana and Idaho (see one page fact sheet and map attached).

    Astoundingly, ARS does not consider these to be public lands and bans most public entry. However, 2 outfitters are permitted to operate exclusively on ARS lands in the Centennial Mountains in Montana (page 13 DEIS). Comments will be taken until September 22, 2011.

    Send Comments via email to: Dr. Andrew Hammond USSES@ars.usda.gov

    Subject Line: USSES 2010 DEIS Public Comments

    Project information is available on the web at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=17878 Scroll to the bottom to 8/9/11 to see the list of current documents.

    Thanks,

    Glenn Hockett

    Volunteer President, Gallatin Wildlife Association

  5. I was pretty surprised to read Larry Zuckerman’s attack on NRDC intern Zac Mattson’s blog about his tour of the USDA’s Sheep Experiment station (way to encourage the next generation, there, Larry). I think Zac was pretty clear that he and NRDC has a lot of issues with the station and its operations, not the least of which are its potential impacts on grizzly bears and wolves. Interested readers can judge for themselves by checking out NRDC’s comments on the station’s draft Environmental Assessment here: http://www.predatordefense.org/docs/sheep_grazing_ARS-USSES_comments_012510.pdf

    • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

      Thanks Andrew, but I think Zac has a lot to learn about “show tours.”

      Although few remember it now, thankfully, I made similar statements when I was in my 20s (and 30s)after going out on planned-in-advance tours by government agencies and interest groups, especially grazing associations.

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      I take particular issue with how Zac closed the article:

      I had a brief conversation at the Sheep Station tour with a rancher of some note in this part of the world, Jim Hagenbarth. His take on things jived very well with mine. Suggesting that sheep or cattle be removed from western rangelands is shortsighted. Such advocacy fails to recognize that there is a market for the animals — that there will always be a market for the animals — and that many of the other alternative land uses (like real estate development) are much more ecologically and aesthetically destructive. It’s a matter of pragmatism. And realizing that the point of engagement is not around whether we have livestock on these lands… but how we have livestock on these lands. It’s about refining perspectives and practices, not waging war on an enduring cultural and economic phenomenon and all who are identified with it.

      Unfortunately much of the criticism of the livestock industry is couched in terms like: “eat less (or no) beef.” When, perhaps, the smarter message is: “eat better beef.” The former makes an enemy out of every stockman working in the west. The latter allows us all room to come together and engage in ways that substantively improve quality of life for everyone and everything involved with the industry.

      As Jim said: the path to substantive and sustainable progress is through cooperative community-level work. I agree.

      I feel strongly that beef, and livestock production in general, has a very negative effect on the landscapes and wildlife we are all trying to protect. I also balk at the idea that the livestock industry has any concern for anything other than the bottom line. Hagenbarth didn’t just insinuate that he is providing some great service to all of humanity by grazing his livestock, he attacked anyone who might think otherwise.

      The phrase “eat better beef” is just another talking point to brush aside the damage that livestock causes to the arid landscapes of the west and to justify that damage because there is a “market”, a deeply subsidized one at that, is even more shortsighted.

      Hagenbarth Livestock received payments totaling $224,082 from 1995 through 2010
      http://farm.ewg.org/persondetail.php?custnumber=A09371933

      Also, the idea that there is any risk, with rising fuel prices and a collapsed real estate market, that Hagenbarth’s land will turn into a subdivision are just threats and are baseless. If the economics of livestock ranching were to change so that his land became more valuable then who really thinks most of these guys wouldn’t sell out and subdivide anyway?

      Cows, Condos and All the Rest
      by GEORGE WUERTHNER
      http://www.counterpunch.org/2010/02/16/cows-condos-and-all-the-rest/

    • Andrew:
      I am sorry you feel that way. I appreciated that Zac expressed his opinion and that I was able to counter with my own – there is nothing personal here at all.

      What is more to the point is that the US Sheep Experiment Station is an anachronism that does not even meet its original mission and has outlived its purpose as a domestic sheep research station with thousands of sheep wandering from the sagebrush steppe-home to healthy populations of imperiled sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits – into the alpine meadows of the Centennial Mountains – where grizzly bears, gray wolves, and perhaps imperiled pikas and wolverines still roam, trying to eke out an ecological living, in an increasingly hostile and inhospitable environment giving Wildlife Services’ practices of killing predators, climate change, and hunters, off-road enthusiasts, and other recreationists, reaching further and further into the wildlands of the West.

      What is even more amazing, and what seems to have escaped Zac’s young eyes, is how the ARS is trying to hide behind peer-reviewed landscape-level ecological studies and openly denies that they have any adverse environmental effects on wildlife, native plants, and ecological processes in the operation of the research station.

      I am very glad I was invited to attend and appreciated seeing a portion of the expansive property in Idaho, that although it is publicly owned land, is not open to access by me or anyone else in the general public. I am also glad that the US Sheep Experiment Station still exists as ecological island among agricultural lowlands and grazing uplands, and still supports many of the Northern Rockies rarer wildlife species.

      It is high time that the USDA-ARS live up to their NEPA and ESA Section 7 responsibilities and consider abandoning the domestic sheep industry hook for its existence, and consider how to transfer the property so that long-term, large-scale ecological research can continue, but without the harm that it has been inflicting for about a Century. Please don’t forget to submit your comments to USDA-ARS and their DEIS.

  6. avatar Janet Maxwell says:

    I agree with Ken and Larry. I was also on the tour at the ARS and although I found some of the people who work for the station very nice and charming, the point is what is the need of the ARS? What problems is it creating and continuing by having domestic sheep in key habitat areas of bighorn sheep, grizzly bears and wolves (along with several other key species: sage grouse, etc.) The only reason this tour was conducted is the pressure put on them by conservation leaders. This tour was a last ditch attempt to look like they are above board and really just were caught with their pants down.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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