Bighorn Roundup 8/09

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has nearly completed its requirement to develop “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) pursuant to Idaho legislation S1232.  Public land sheep ranchers hope that the BMPs will be sufficient to dissuade the Payette National Forest from shutting down domestic sheep ranching on the Payette Forest, a move necessary to protect bighorn sheep from deadly disease.

Idaho meets deadline for bighorn plans – mostly ~ Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman

A lawsuit by bighorn advocates forced officials at the Payette National Forest to start a process to decide whether to keep allowing ranchers to graze their sheep in bighorn habitat.

That sparked a response from the Idaho Legislature, which passed a law that says a wild sheep that had come too close to a domestic herd had to be either relocated or killed. It also required Fish and Game Director Cal Groen to certify these separation plans by Aug. 5.

The BMPs won’t work.  The Payette’s own science demonstrates that to ensure “viability” of bighorn sheep, the Forest needs to ensure that fewer than 1 (that’s less than one !) bighorn/domestic sheep interaction can take place per year.  These BMPs can’t ensure that.  Additionally, the Statesman article notes that the very two ranchers this legislation passed to protect are holding out, refusing to agree to IDFG’s proposed BMPs forcing the Department to lapse on its deadline.

A Politicized Game Department

S1232 is a bill signed into law under intense pressure from Idaho sheep ranching interests and under false pretenses.  Domestic sheep rancher and state senator Jeff Siddoway pushed the bill using testimony from Dr. Marie Bulgin, currently under investigation for conflict of interest, who claimed that there was no evidence of transmission of disease from domestic sheep to wild sheep, that claim is bogus.

You may remember, S1232 prompted an exodus of bighorn advocates from the Governornor’s Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Working Group, all bighorn advocates have ‘left the table’ with one notable exception remaining: Western Watersheds Project.  It remains to be seen whether Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter is committed to continuing the collaborative decision-making process he established, or whether the group will remain suspended indefinitely.

Interestingly, shortly after the Wild Sheep Foundation (formerly FNAWS) announced it was pulling out of the working group, IDFG announced it was awarding its prized Bighorn sheep auction tag to Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife (sic), a group sympathetic to public land livestock grazing that has remained conspicuously silent on the bighorn controversy, effectively pulling the tag from the Sheep Foundation who had previously been awarded the tag every year prior given their work to make the tag available.







  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I noticed in Rocky’s article that one of the Shirts brothers is quoted as saying that none of their herders has ever seen a bighorn near their sheep. The problem is that Shirt’s domestic sheep keep straying into Bighorn occupied areas. I was in Hell’s Canyon two years ago and the local conservation officer asked me to watch for some stray domestic sheep belonging to Shirts, so that he could shoot them before they came in contact with Bighorns.

  2. Brian Ertz Avatar

    Shirts’ sheep have been documented in bighorn habitat well after time to bring them off the allotment. Documentation of such was included in the court record during litigation.

    I overheard one of the Shirts complaining of wolves killing dozens of his sheep at one of the first bighorn working group meetings. his justification for it being wolves was that it must’ve been wolves because they came up that many sheep short at roundup. I thought to myself ‘jeez – so there’s close to a hundred domestic sheep unaccounted for in bighorn habitat’ …

    these guys just don’t want to have to clean up their act – for wildlife, for bighorn, it don’t matter. they’re used to just turning out sheep onto public lands, then heading to the legislature to whine about the injustice of it all. this is just another indication.

  3. mikarooni Avatar

    I know you guys get disgusted with ranchers and, in the vast majority of cases, with good reason; but, when you get to dealing up close and personal with sheepherders, you’ll find that most cattlemen are princes by comparison. I’ve had to deal with some of the meanest, slimiest, most ruthless cattlemen in the West and none of them were as lowlife to the core as the sheepherders I’ve encountered. Sheepherders are something out of a sequel to Deliverance.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Brian Ertz