Marvel says bighorn bill helps his cause the most

“It correctly constructs in the public eye the clash of values we are experiencing”

Bighorn Sheep ©Ken Cole
Bighorn Sheep ©Ken Cole

Rocky Barker interviews Jon Marvel (my boss) of Western Watersheds Project about the recent bill SB 1175 which requires the IDFG to kill bighorn sheep that enter domestic sheep grazing allotments.

“The legislature is creating a trap for ranchers and the state as a whole,” Marvel said. “The state will begin to lose sovereignty over wildlife.”

Marvel says bighorn bill helps his cause the most
Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman


  1. Brian Ertz Avatar

    the crooks at the Idaho legislature should have a hell of a time trying to figure this one out …

  2. JB Avatar

    This is also a great example to roll out in front of the federal court hearing the wolf delisting case. If the Idaho legislature is willing to kill a struggling native ungulate just for having the audacity to come close to sheep, what will they do in response to a predator that actually kills sheep? Seems as though–in its zealotry–the livestock industry is becoming its own worst enemy. 🙂

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    I think this should be example number one why Idaho Fish and Game cannot manage wolves — the Idaho State Legislature’s absolute disinterest in any wildlife that inconveniences a few livestock holders.

    Wolves do!

  4. kt Avatar

    Yeah just wait till next year’s Legislature – the ranchers will devise a law to mandate killing of every wolf in the state.

  5. ChrisH Avatar

    “Marvel resents being singled out as the voice of thousands of people in and out of Idaho who share his goals and love of native species and places. That’s because his open distain for ranchers and especially the cowboy culture undercuts the power of his cause.”
    If anything it’s the other way around,

  6. kt Avatar

    Isn’t it funny how the ranchers just flip out when people stand up to them? They have always gotten their way by bullying BLM, the Forest – and whining to politicians. Now more and more people aren’t backing down, and they are going berserk – and have enlisted the wacko Legislators in their cause.

    And what is that cause? Snubbing their collective noses at science, and Defending willful Ignorance. Part of is not even believing that their domestic sheep carry many harmful diseases – that besides making hikers and other wildlife sick – some of these germs make bighorns die. The state is going to extreme lengths to prove its ignorance – including by continuing to employ veterinarians that fuel this ignorance by ignoring current science on disease.

    Basically, the Legislator is enshrining veterinary quackery, too.
    The federal disease scientists need to intervene. I am betting one of the next moves by the Woolgrower’s lackeys in ID will be to have the Dept of Ag. (and then the vet quacks) start handling wild sheep … and “trying out” different infections …

  7. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Amazingly, the much diminished IDFG even testified against this bill–saying it would make their work to transplant and preserve bighorn sheep and other species much harder. The legislature ignored the opposition from this state agency that has to carry out the killing.

    I agree with Jon that this legislature will backfire in several ways, including galvanizing hunters and the rest of the public that wants native wildlife on public lands. It may also generate a citizen’s petition initiative to overturn it.

  8. Ken Cole Avatar

    Is an ESA petition in the cards? Sounds like a good candidate to me as the numbers are declining and they are at low numbers now.

    We’re talking about native bighorn sheep here, not just re-introduced sheep like those in Hell’s Canyon. The Central Idaho herd which lives in the Frank Church Wilderness is even being affected by disease and their numbers appear to be reaching very low levels. Predictive models show them going extinct without some kind of change so that means, as a DPS, they are endangered or at least threatened.

    I think there is a very good case to be made.

  9. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr

    There are five risk factors that FWS has to consider for an emergency listing. Seems like shooting animals in a population of maybe 150 total animals would be considered a risk. I’d agree with Ken that a listing may be warranted if the state actually begins shooting.

  10. Ken Cole Avatar

    Even if the state doesn’t start shooting the bighorn sheep and nothing is done with regard to domestic sheep I think bighorn might still warrant an ESA listing.

  11. JB Avatar

    Certainly they would seem to be threatened, at the very least. That would set an interesting precedent; I can’t think of any species that was listed because a state wildlife management agency was actively eliminating remaining animals. Again, if the Idaho legislature keeps at it, IDF&G may find themselves sitting on the sidelines with Wyoming.

  12. Brian Ertz Avatar

    The Sierra bighorns are listed, and there’s still problems with domestic sheep in CA. I noticed CBD & PEER are following suit on the issue and just sent a notice of intent to sue over some domestic sheep allotments in CA.

    Cross your fingers for the Sierra bighorns too !

  13. kt Avatar

    You know something really scary: The very same University of Idaho Caine Vet Lab researcher that denies bighron sheep die from contact with domestic sheep, has been involved in this:

    And today, Dr. XXX remains a giant in sheep research, this time in an area that also will benefit the cattle industry, wildlife and human health. The disease under scrutiny is “Scrapie” an affliction of the brain. In humans, the similar disease is Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. In cattle, the similar disease (not in the USA ) is the well-known “Mad Cow Disease” now eradicated from Great Britain , and in deer and elk, “Chronic Wasting Disease.”

    Gee, isn’t that the same disease (or at least the prions) that has just showed up in ground elk antlers? Elk ranchers saw off bloody antlers and grind them up. The idaho sheepman and elk rancher Rep. Siddoway who introduced the bill to kill bighrons for a hand full of his inter-related sheepmen buddies – is involved with a business with all kinds of wildlife and HUMAN health risks now. With the same kind of Idaho state Caine Vet Lab flat earth oversight ??? … If so, THIS is dangerous stuff, and involves human health concerns.

    So when is the CDC going to step in and close down this dangerous bastion of willful scientific ignorance? What federal grants might the U of I or Caine be getting part of – and who do we talk to – to get them stopped until this veterinary quackery stops?

  14. jimbob Avatar

    By the way, if Idaho doesn’t want their sheep I know Arizona will take all of them. How about we trade all of our sheep ranchers to Idaho for all of their Bighorn sheep?


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

We do not accept unsolicited “guest” authors or advertising.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ken Cole