Bush admin screws bighorn sheep

Mark Rey orders APHIS testing of bighorn sheep reintroductions-

This is a slap at Western Watersheds Project for shutting down disease spreading domestic sheep operations in bighorn territory of Idaho.

It is also another attempt to try to subordinate Forest Service authority over wildlife to APHIS, the livestock friendly agency that should concentrate on foreign pests, not native wildlife.

Fortunately Mark Rey, another Bush Administration plunderer, will soon be gone. He is trying to create a controversy like the bison/brucellosis controversy where bighorn sheep become the problem instead of livestock.

Bighorn sheep don’t bring diseases. Domestic sheep bring diseases.

Link to story from Wilderness Sportsman. Bush admin screws bighorn sheep



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  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    What’s happening with bighorn management is really sad. At the state level, the politicized heads at Idaho Department of Fish & Game are folding to political pressure from the sheep groups.

    Federally, the Payette National Forest recently released a court ordered Supplement Environmental Impact Statement in which is included pretty damning (and extremely “conservative” – i.e. they want it to be as irrefutable as possible – says everyone involved) science indicating that Forest domestic sheep allotments are inconsistent with the law (as brought down by the judge) as it pertains to maintaining viability for bighorn sheep. There’s just no way around the fact that in order to maintain viability for bighorns – you gotta keep the domestic sheep away. Rey and others would have it the other way around (keep the bighorn away from the domestic sheep on federal public land)

    All of the interests involved all over the West have been awaiting this Payette National Forest decision (pursuant to the SEIS) as the implications of their Decision will likely be seen as establishing guiding precedent for land-managers decisions on other National Forests and public lands all throughout the West. There is strong indication that Mark Rey has been personally involved in applying a liberal dosage of political pressure with the Payette NF. To their credit, the Payette NF – applying the extremely “conservative” science, has decided that the best way to protect bighorns on the Forest is to remove over 60% of the domestic sheep grazing on the Forest. Even with this level of reductions, the Forest does not eliminate the threat of spread of disease from domestic sheep to wild sheep to the standard the Forest itself claims to assure “viability”.

    Now, we see Rey pulling out every illegitimate trick in the book – attempting to move management over to APHIS, threatening political consequences to those who support bighorn preservation, etc.

  2. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Those of us who have been deeply involved in the brucellosis fraud with bison and elk in Montana and Wyoming know well the long standing and expressed intent of APHIS to extend its control over all wildlife under the guise of animal disease management and control. APHIS, which includes the predator killing “wildlife services” as well as “veterinary services,” may be the most power- hungry and ruthless federal government agency outside the Pentagon and Homeland Security.

    Technically and legally speaking, APHIS has no authority to manage wildlife and technically and legally speaking it hasn’t even the authority to concern itself with wildlife disease. These are all matters for wildlife agencies both federal and state, not agricultural agencies. APHIS has no expertise in wildlife ecology, and problems of wildlife disease are mostly problems of ecology.

    APHIS has established its control over wildlife extra-legally through its authority over livestock and as a livestock industry point organization. State wildlife agencies have pretty much capitulated to livestock interests in the several states, and APHIS exerts pressure on wildlife agencies through those livestock interests. For example, the bison “quarantine” facility in Montana, is a joint Fish Wildlife and Parks/APHIS facility operated under the authority of the Interagency Bison Management Plan. The IBMP is a plan designed to keep bison out of Montana to protect cattle range and livestock industry powers and privileges over land use and wildlife management. It is nothing more than a livestock style feedlot in which bison are mismanaged and brutalized.

    This move by timber industry lobbyist Mark Rey at USDA to prohibit the USFS from allowing the transplant of wild bighorn sheep onto USFS land without a disease assessment by APHIS has nothing to do with the alleged danger of bighorns transmitting disease to domestic sheep, and everything to do with expanding agicultural control over wildlife and wildlife management and conservation.

    The disease threat in the relationship between bighorns and domestic sheep comes strictly from domestic sheep. Bighorns have no resistance to diseases carried by domestics, whereas domestics are already resistant to anything that bighorns might carry. In experiments where bighorns are put into pens with domestics, the bighorns quickly die after exposure to domestics, while the domestic sheep happily munch on hay. It happens every time. This is why conservationists, such as those at the Western Watersheds Project, have rightly sought to shut down domestic sheep allotments in national forests where bighorns are present–to protect wild sheep from the disease threat of domestic sheep, not to mention to protect wild sheep habitat from the ravages of sheep grazing, which does even more damage to land than cattle grazing.

    The term “range maggot,” as applied to sheep, is of cattleman coinage for the damage sheep do to land. There is a place in the southern Wind River Range called the “sheep desert.” It’s in the mountains proper, not the foothills, and it is a desert from sheep grazing. It will take centuries for it to recover.

    There is no valid place for domestic sheep in the Rocky Mountains.


  3. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    The Payette NF is accepting comments on the draft SEIS on bighorn viability that Brian mentioned. The deadline for comments is currently January 2, 2009. The DSEIS and how to comment can be found at this link: http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/payette/publications/big_horn/big_horn_sheep_documents_index.shtml

    The Payette’s preferred alternative, 7G, results in the 60% reduction of domestic sheep allotments that Brian notes. Importantly, however, the Payette has also analyzed a “no grazing” alternative, 7E. Alternative 7E would eliminate ALL domestic sheep grazing on the Payette NF, and thus go the furthest to eliminate disease risk to bighorns on this forest.

    Anyone who wants to have wild bighorn sheep on public lands should take the time to let the Payette know, and request that the Payette select 7E, no domestic sheep grazing, to give the bighorns the best chance of survival.

    The 4 domestic sheep permittees on the Payette are, of course, fighting this proposal and are well-connected politically. Accordingly, comments from pro-wildlife individuals and organizations will be needed to show public support for the reductions proposed.

    There is no way that the Payette will have time to finalize the decision-making process on the bighorn SEIS before Bush and his evil minions such as Rey slink out the door. So there’s hope that the bighorns in Hells Canyon and along the Salmon River will experience meaningful improvement in their habitat.

  4. Barb Avatar

    Any clues on who Obama will make head of the Dept of Interior?


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