Nez Perce Tribe very concerned about Hells Canyon bighorn/domestic sheep mixing in upcoming grazing season

The Nez Perce Tribe issued a news release today expressing concern that in the upcoming grazing season there was a high probably of domestic sheep mixing with bighorn in Hells Canyon where restoration of bighorn herds has gone slowly. The Payette National Forest has promised to solve the problem (because the FS Chief upheld an appeal of their Forest Plan back in 2004), but with the near onset of grazing, it looks to be like they are doing nothing.

When domestic sheep mix with bighorn, the bighorn die of domestic sheep diseases very quickly. It cannot be tolerated.

The Tribe’s news release follows. It is very low key and respectfully written. I’m used to seeing “get your rear in gear, slackers, or we’ll see you court right away.” I hope the tone of the Tribe doesn’t lead the Forest Service and the livestock politicians not to take this seriously.

NPT Press Release
March 29, 2007

Nez Perce Tribe Provides Management Recommendations to the Forest Service Concerning Bighorn Sheep Restoration and Domestic Sheep Management

Lapwai, ID – The Nez Perce Tribe is awaiting a response from the Payette National Forest concerning this year’s management of domestic sheep grazing on the forest, which poses a threat to the continued viability of Idaho’s iconic bighorn sheep populations in and around bighorn sheep populations in Hells Canyon and along the Salmon River. The Tribe developed recommendations calling for separation of domestic and bighorn sheep in this year’s grazing operations on the forest in order to reduce the risk of mortality to already depressed bighorn sheep populations. “There is a demonstrated correlation between large-scale bighorn die-offs and the presence of domestic sheep,” says Aaron Miles Sr., Natural Resource Manager for the Tribe, “in order to protect the bighorns, and hopefully recover them to harvestable levels, we need to keep these species separate.” concluded Mr. Miles.

This will be the third grazing season since the Chief of the Forest Service upheld an appeal of the Payette Forest Plan by the Tribe and others on the grounds that the Plan did not protect the viability of bighorn sheep because of widespread domestic sheep grazing authorized in the Plan. “The Payette National Forest has had three years to work with the permitted sheep producers to modify their grazing practices in order to comply with the law and the needs of the bighorns. The bighorns cannot stand another year of die-off’s” says Brooklyn Baptiste, Chairman of the Tribal Executive Committee’s Natural Resources Subcommittee. “The data I have seen are clear. Bighorn and domestic sheep are mixing and bighorns are dying. It is not enough to argue there is no need for separation of the species because most of the bighorns have already died; we need to insure long-term bighorn viability” Mr. Baptiste continued.

This fall, the Nez Perce Tribe initiated a collaborative effort to find workable solutions among stakeholders including the U. S. Forest Service, state fish and game agencies, domestic sheep producers, and conservation groups. “Our goal is bighorn restoration and we feel the best way to accomplish that is to maintain separation” says Keith Lawrence, Nez Perce Tribe Wildlife Management Division Director. “We understand this means change in the way domestic sheep are grazed on the forest and poses hardships for the producers. Our hope is to find solutions that insure separation and minimize impacts to domestic sheep operations. The best way to do that is for all stakeholders to work together,” continued Mr. Lawrence.

“The future of bighorns in central Idaho hangs in the balance, I hope that the Forest Service will be prudent and separate the two species so that the bighorns my people have used for thousands of years can be restored to their rightful place in the canyon country” says Rebecca Miles, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. The Payette Forest will make a decision concerning this year’s domestic sheep grazing within the next week or two, and will make a long-term management decision this summer.

Included is a packet containing background and contact numbers for people involved in this issue.




  1. ESH Avatar

    As I understand it–correct me if I’m wrong–the grazing of domestic sheep on the Oregon side of Hells Canyon has been outlawed. A recent editorial in the local La Grande, OR paper bemoaned the persistence of sheep-grazing on the Idaho side as increasing the likelihood of disease transmission to bighorns in the entire ecosystem.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, and this is one reason the Tribe is upset. The bighorn have moved a bit, so that now the various bands of bighorn will all intersect with this large remaining Idaho grazing allotment.

    All of the bighorn could get infected!

  3. kt Avatar

    Some of these threatened bighorns are actually native sheep, not transplants.

    I think there may actually be 4 permittees on the Idaho side – including the Soulen sheep empire that runs sheep all over the place. Soulen sheep roam from the Birds of Prey Area weedlands to the Crane Creek weedlands to Hells Canyon-Salmon River country. Various Shirts operations are other permittees. These folks have close connections to Larry Craig and the ID Cong delegation.

    The domestic sheep allotments include: Smith Mountain and Curren Hill in Hells Canyon; and French Creek, Bear Pete, and Marshall Mountain, in Salmon River country, all Payette Forest. Plus, the Allison-Berg allotment on the Nez Perce.

    I recall camping near the Salmon River, and waking up to sounds of Thocka-Thwocka, and BAAAAAAA – and seeing the disgusting sight of domestic sheep herds/hordes crashing down the steep slopes of the Salmon River Canyon, stirring up clouds of dust and germs, to water at, and poop in, the Salmon River. With, no less, the backdrop of a helicopter logging operation going on at the same time. An Idaho moment, for sure.

    Despite the overwhelming evidence that contact with domestic sheep cause bighorn sheep to die, the Idaho Woolgrower’s and the public lands sheep industry is still trying to claim that it hasn’t been “proven” that domestic sheep transmit diseases to bighorns. And your tax dollars are used to support “research” and biostitution at places like the Caine Vet Center try to show that domestic sheep are NOT responsible for bighorn die-offs. Flat Earth “science”. The same kind that will be applied to the new state-sanctioned Idaho New Improved Wolf Pelt Tag Planning group we will be hearing about ….

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks for the additional information, KT. I don’t know the Hells Canyon country and its problems very well, although my late father-in-law was an outfitter there (the Lower Granite Dam’s filling put him out of business).

    The one time I climbed to the top and looked down into the deepest park of Hells Canyon is full of smoke from the grass seed burning in northern Idaho. I really didn’t want to go back.

  5. kt Avatar

    From an aethetic standpoint (leaving biodiversity aside): The Hells Canyon country has a whole different feeling to it than the Lost River, Lemhi, Beaverhead country. These Ranges to me are more visually spectacular/majestic – and pretty much removed from the heavy duty ag pollution you describe, and also from the ubiquitous smoldering agency slash pile haze that also sets in on Payette/Nez Perce Forest lands at times. Except, of course, for pollution and impacts of the few public lands grazers that manage to stomp so much of the ctrl and eastern Idaho country … But there is something about the look and sweet smell of big old Ponderosa Pines in the Hells Canyon/Salmon River country, though …

  6. wetherman Avatar


    The impoundment formed by Lower Granite Dam only goes up to Lewiston. How did this affect outfitting in Hell’s Canyon (which is upstream of Lewiston)?

    It destroyed the steelhead fishing in Hells Canyon. Like the rest of the dams on the Columbia River system, much of negative effect was on the fish above the the dams. Ralph

  7. Denise Johnson Avatar
    Denise Johnson

    KT, you are so knowledgable about the area..
    I camped once on the shores of the N.F. of the Payette River. We did the Sawtooth Loop. It was AWESOME. And you decribed the area so perfectly. I wished I could have bottled the air. I didn’t want to leave.
    We were hoping to go there again this summer, time permitting. I hope they haven’t destroyed the pristine forest areas with clear cutting. There was a lot of lightening strikes that caused fires. But I wasn’t aware of the lodging operations happening now-a-days.
    Idaho has such a diverse landscape I hope that it can be preserved. I have a few more years till retirement, and have always thought of heading there.

  8. Glen Weiser Avatar
    Glen Weiser

    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    KT’s written statements on this blog exhibit complete ignorance. KT does not even have, as could be easily seen, the decency or courage to identify him/her by full name or contact information.

    Dr. (or Mr. Weiser), I can’t figure out to whom you are referring (“full name,” etc.)

    Statements regarding research and science directed at the University of Idaho are inaccurate, misinformed and may possibly be interpreted as slanderous and/or libelous.

    What statements? I don’t believe the University of Idaho is even mentioned in this post.

    In over 30 years of studying plant and animal ecology I have never observed wild or domestic sheep pooping (to use KT’s word) in pristine waters. Rather, they do not prefer to be in water, except for selected occasions. The only wildlife I have observed pooping in water have been wild moose, fish, and beavers. All part of the carbon-nitrogen-nutrient cycles. I suggest KT study some science before making ignorant comments.

    Research conducted at the University of Idaho is of the highest quality possible anywhere and represents the highest level of scientific integrity. Statements such as those written by KT have no place in the public media and should be removed from this forum immediately.

    I’m a professor at Idaho State University, an institution for which I have high respect, but I’m sure our research is not the highest quality possible anywhere and neither can you say that the University of Idaho’s is of the highest quality possible. I am not going to remove anything based on such a vague complaint. Webmaster.


    Glen Weiser
    Research Scientist
    University of Idaho
    Caine Veterinary Teaching Center

  9. chris Avatar

    kt did slam the U of Idaho’s Caine Vet Center in her first posting.

    Thank you. I had a hard time finding it because I’d never heard of the Caine Vet Center at the Univ of Idaho.
    . So this “Caine” must be a person. I read it and saw “canine” and wondered what dogs, and coyotes had to do with it 😉 Ralph

  10. kt Avatar

    AND the Caine Vet center indeed deserves a Slam. This type of facility is a breeding grounds for transmission of all kinds of diseases between species of wildife.

    Long ago and far away when I had occasion to visit the Caine Vet Center at all hours while working for a Govt agency, I was amazed at how despondent the animals looked, including the bighorn sheep.

    There is no reason to run the risk of cross-species transmisson of diseases at these rinky-dink state Ag. “research” facilities. The ONLY reason some of the so-called “research” is going on is to placate the Woolgrower’s who obtusely promote the myth that domestic sheep do not transmit diseases to bighorns.

  11. kt Avatar

    And Google chromic wasting disease in Wikipedia article, and you will find it mentions how chronic wasting disease originated – at just such a state “research” facility. And later in the article, it is mentioned that not long after cwd it was discovered at the facility, the Game agencies stopped moving animals from the facility into the wild.

    Also check out
    Marie Bulgin, an OFFICER in the WOOLGROWER’s along with Stan Boyd and others, while being a state-employed Vet at Caine, is being paid by the state to work on promoting the Woolgrower myths about domestic sheep. What a sad and sorry waste of our state tax dollars.

    Look at the OTHER Woolgrower officers. Now just what kind of bias might any “research” at Caine have?

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Maybe Dr. Weiser will post a bibliography showing how domestic sheep don’t transmit diseases to bighorn sheep by sharing the same range.

    I was unaware that anyone believed this to be true. I’d always heard that domestic sheep were the reason bighorn died out ever since I was a teenager growing up in northern Utah.

  13. elkhunter Avatar

    KT I have a hard time really taking anything you say for truth when it is focused towards any kind of cattle/sheep/hunting/not pro-wolf. You have blamed almost all the world ailments on cattle and sheep. Anywhere from global warming to toxic diseases, and the majority of the stuff you quote as opinion and try to pass it off as fact, you think that state dollars are being wasted on research at that facility. How many MILLIONS AND MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of dollars have been wasted with endless litigation and lawsuits to protect your wolf in the Rockies? To you that is money well spent, cause it is something that you have a fierce interest in. But when someone has a fierce interest in something that maybe you dont agree with, then it is “a waste of tax-payers” dollars!! I just think its funny thats all. I do enjoy reading your posts though, they are entertaining.

  14. Mike Post Avatar
    Mike Post

    Yes, it would be nice just to see you guys reference some available peer reviewed papers on the subject instead of all this entertaining but fruitless chest bumping…


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan