Rumor of high level Idaho meeting to conspire against recent bighorn sheep victories

There is a rumor that top Idaho state legislators met today in Boise with the Governor’s office of Species Conservation, the Bush Forest Service, the Bush BLM, Idaho Fish and Game, and perhaps one member from the Federation for North American Wild Sheep to strategize how they can stop the spreading legal victories by Advocates for the West and Western Watersheds Project to protect bighorn sheep in the Hells Canyon and lower Salmon River areas from contact with the deadly (to bighorn) domestic sheep.

This is rumor, but most of these agencies can’t be happy they keep losing cases and getting orders that insist domestic sheep be kept away from the bighorn. Rumor is they will try to get the Forest Service and BLM to drag their feet more slowly than ever and shut up those folks in Idaho Fish and Game who think wildlife (bighorn at least) come first.

Story about the issue from High Country News. “Sheep v. Sheep”. By Nathaniel Hoffman. My link to the recent news story in the Times-News has gone dead, so Sheep v. Sheep is a substitute.



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  1. Jim Avatar

    Secret meetings about how to kill more, or how to kill all, bighorn sheep. Forgetting about what one’s personal feelings for wild sheep are, these people are adults. Do they really not having ANYTHING else they could be doing? Even sitting at hoome watching television would be better than this.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


  3. Buffaloed Avatar

    It reminds me of the quote by Edward Abbey “One thing more dangerous than getting between a grizzly sow and her cub is getting between a businessman and a dollar bill.”

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I don’t think this is about dollar bills because the dollars are all on the side of keeping the bighorn sheep herds growing and thriving.

    The powers that be in Idaho really don’t like bighorn any more than they like wolves. Idaho Fish and Game has been reduced to an agency that takes orders. They really don’t set Idaho wildlife policy anymore. It is set by ag groups and their allies in SFW to make sure only a couple kinds of animals are promoted and then only inasmuch as they dont’t offend the livestock industry.

    The growth of the bighorn population in Hells Canyon and the lower Salmon River has inconvenienced domestic sheep growers, maybe been the last straw that put one out of business, and challenged the “old west” mentality. This is intolerable to them.

  5. Buffaloed Avatar

    Well, consider the perspective of some of the people that post on this blog. I think that the policies are made to protect the “multiple use” people and since they are losing in court they are going to gag the biologists and policy makers in IDFG. I consider the sheep growers the businessmen and the person standing between them and the dollar bill is the biologist.

  6. JB Avatar

    I was not aware of this:

    “…former Interior Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Julie MacDonald….who oversaw the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was involved in many endangered species decisions, resigned earlier this year after an inspector general’s report found that she had aggressively manipulated scientific reports to minimize endangered species protections and shared internal documents with agriculture industry groups”

    Does anyone have more info?


  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Yes, here is a link to a 1.2 mb pdf file, “Report of Investigation of Julie MacDonald, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Fish, Wildlife, Parks, Dept. of Interior.

  8. Buffaloed Avatar


    Boise, ID

    Date: December 17, 2007
    Contact: Ed Mitchell
    (208) 334-3700

    Bighorn Working Group To Meet Again In January

    On October 12, Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter asked the Idaho Department of Agriculture and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to assemble a working group to develop a statewide policy addressing issues of domestic sheep and bighorn sheep in Idaho.

    To start discussions, the two agencies invited the following list of agencies and groups to participate in the working group. Representatives of those agencies, who spoke at the group’s first meeting December 3, included:

    Kurt Houston of the Idaho Department of Lands.

    Nate Fisher of the Idaho Office of Species Conservation.

    Tom Rinkes of the Idaho office U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho.

    Pete Grinde of the Payette National Forest, U.S.D.A. Forest Service – Intermountain Region.

    Stan Boyd of the Idaho Wool Growers Association.

    Josh Tewalt of the Idaho Cattle Association.

    Wally Butler of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation.

    John Caywood of the Idaho chapter of Foundation for North American Wild Sheep.

    Lloyd Oldenburg of the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council.
    Also attending the first meeting were Stephen Goodson of the governor’s office; Chuck Middleton of the national Foundation for North American Wild Sheep; Cathy Bourner of the Idaho Department of Commerce, Division of Tourism; Vince Moreno of U.S. Rep. Bill Sali’s office; and Dustin Miller of U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s office.

    The group’s co-chairmen are Brian J. Oakey, deputy director of the Department of Agriculture, and Jim Unsworth, chief of Fish and Game’s wildlife bureau.

    “It is in the interest of everyone in this group to work toward decisions that maintain both Idaho’s land-based economy and Idaho’s natural resources,” Unsworth said.

    He encouraged everyone to attend the Bighorn Sheep Symposium in March, 2008.

    Oakey said the role of the Department of Agriculture “is to promote the domestic sheep industry and ensure that it is economically viable and will provide for a no net loss to the industry, as well as protect the interests of wildlife.”

    Additional groups will be invited to attend future working group meetings, including representatives from: the Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Piute tribes; the Idaho Conservation League; the Nature Conservancy of Idaho; The Wilderness Society; Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association; Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Idaho; and Idaho Rangeland Resource Committee.

    The public also is welcome.

    The working group plans to meet again at 1:30 p.m. Monday, January 7, 2008, at the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

  9. Buffaloed Avatar

    How come WWP is not invited to attend future working group meetings? Could it be that they are kicking ass in court and they don’t want the “enemy” in attendance?

    Get those damned hooved locusts of the Payette and Nez Perce!

  10. Buffaloed Avatar

    They are trying to follow the same strategy that Wyoming tried. They wanted to keep putting sheep on top of bighorn populations and maintain the same amount of grazing throughout the state regardless of its impacts on bighorns. Fortunately they lost but this is a blatant effort to bypass several laws and put the Department of Agriculture in charge of sheep management. We all know what happens when Ag departments manage wildlife. Just think Yellowstone buffalo.

  11. catbestland Avatar


    Would it be possible to contact IDFG and request that groups like WWP or maybe even Wildlife Watchers of Idaho be included in the group?

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for bringing us up to date on this. As folks can see the earlier rumor of a high level meeting was true.

    The new rumor is that a lobbyist or two is going to write a bill to try to short circuit this is favor of domestic sheep. In other words, the governor’s “working group” is window dressing while the real decisions are made elsewhere.

    I’m sure they don’t want Western Watersheds on this committee, nor does WWP want to be there, catbestland.

  13. Buffaloed Avatar

    From what I’ve heard Stan Boyd of the Idaho Wool Growers Association is the real mover on this. He apparently told the individual producers to fight the lawsuits in court but they lost. He’s now scrambling to find some other way to control Federal lands so that the producers don’t get kicked off but I hope that he and the state aren’t successful. Wildlife should take precedence on public lands, period. These sheep are also being put into areas where there are conflicts with wolves too. Over the years more wolves have been killed for one producer on the Payette National Forest north of McCall than for anyone else and the sheep shouldn’t be there at all. The place is horribly overgrazed especially in the alpine country. That forage should be used by elk and bighorn sheep. Bighorn sheep aren’t present in many places there now but the habitat is good and should support them, they just can’t survive the interaction with domestics.

  14. Brian Ertz Avatar

    there may be an agitator or two in the meetings, documenting the corruption 😉

  15. Salle Avatar


    Sounds like Cheney’s plea about the secret meeting he held with the power brokers of energy… Only this is the modern day definition of the “trickle-down” theory. Not all that surprising after all these years.


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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