Federal judge shutters Idaho grazing allotment

Ruling protects bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon.

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole
Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The BLM Partridge Creek Allotment has been closed to sheep grazing to protect bighorn sheep from domestic sheep disease. This is a big victory for bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon. These sheep are native sheep and have seen drastic declines over the years due to domestic sheep diseases.

This decision follows victories for bighorn sheep on US Forest Service allotments in the area.

Federal judge shutters Idaho grazing allotment
Associated Press UPDATED STORY

acrobat pdfRead the order here

From Western Watersheds Project:

WWP expands bighorn sheep protection to Bureau of Land Management lands

~ Jon MarvelFriends,
Today Chief Judge Lynn B. Winmill of the Federal District Court for Idaho ruled in favor of Western Watersheds Project and WWP’s two co-plaintiffs, the Hells Canyon Preservation Council and the Wilderness Society, and halted domestic sheep grazing on the Bureau of Land Management’s Partridge Creek sheep grazing allotment east of Riggins, Idaho.

The Judge’s Order is in response to WWP’s legal filings to protect bighorn sheep within the Salmon River Canyon from deadly disease that is transmitted to bighorns from domestic sheep. Previously WWP was successful with similar litigation that stopped domestic sheep grazing on allotments adjacent to the Partridge Creek BLM allotment administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

Judge Winmill’s ruling marks the first successful effort to protect Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from disease spread by domestic sheep grazing on Bureau of Land Management administered public lands..

Western Watersheds Project and WWP’s co-plaintiffs have been very ably represented in this litigation by Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West’s Boise office.



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  1. April Clauson Avatar
    April Clauson

    Good thing!

  2. Tilly Avatar

    “Rancher Mick Carlson argued he won’t be able to run his operation profitably if up to 833 of his sheep are kept off the BLM area. . ..”

    One has to wonder: is it being run profitably now?

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I attended the hearing before the judge in the request for this TRO, (Western Watersheds Project, et al v. Bureau of Land Management, et al.).

    Attorney Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West flattened the BLM legal staff.

    This is good news for the beleaguered bighorn sheep.

  4. kt Avatar

    Ralph: I understand that BLM was asked by the Judge what science they were relying on, and they just flailed around … channeling Marie Bulgin, or something.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    The defendents could not cite any science to support the “best management practices” or BMUs that they were trying to rely on as measures that would protect bighorns from domestic sheep diseases.

    Instead, the BLM attorney kept citing how the BMUs had gone through a process with lots of important people signing them. Judge Winmill kept asking if any kind of scientist had looked at them and given any sort of opinion about their usefulness? The BLM just kept trying to impress him with all signatures. Finally, he said the Court didn’t want to hear any more about the signatures because they were not relevant.

  6. Maska Avatar

    Congratulations to WWP et al. and the bighorn! We’ll be funneling a little support to WWP for further litigation costs through your Arizona office. 🙂

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you, Maska.

    I know that times are tough and all groups are scrambling for funds, but if you can contribute and have your donation make a difference, I don’t think anyone can do better than give to Western Watersheds Project and the law firm Advocates for the West.

  8. Ken Cole Avatar

    This is exciting news for me. Congratulations to Laurie!

  9. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Carlson has permits to graze his sheep almost year round on public lands along and near the Salmon River. The presence of domestic sheep is especially bad for the bighorn during the critical winter/spring seasons.

    With the Nez Perce NF shutting down the Allison Berg allotment until they can do NEPA, and now the BLM lands, this is very good news indeed for the beleagured Salmon River bighorn population.

  10. Rita k. Sharpe Avatar
    Rita k. Sharpe

    That’s a good thing!

  11. catbestland Avatar

    Yea WWP!!! Maybe we can channell some of that science into a lawsuit to close some cattle grazing allotments too.

  12. josh sutherland Avatar
    josh sutherland

    This is good news.. Hopefully it picks up momentum.

  13. kt Avatar

    Let’s hope the fantasy land and science-denying Make-Believe World of the Idaho Woolgrower bullies is finally being exposed and ending … Here’s a fitting tribute to the Wooly Bullies …


    Lordy just realized there a balloon is this. Hope it isn’t being piloted by one of the E ID Woolgrower Wolf Blasting Gun Crazies dressed up in drag …

  14. kt Avatar

    I meant E ID WOLF Blasting Gun Nut Crazies …

  15. Ken Cole Avatar

    I’ve linked to an updated and much expanded story.

  16. gline Avatar

    more good news, what a nice day it has been.

  17. kt Avatar

    Why does Carlson deserve that the U. S. public and taxpayers continue to pour money into subsidizing his operation to make it “profitable”? How much does just having his sheep out there cost us each year in water lost and polluted, wildlife diminished, soil eroded, weeds spread, etc.?

    AND this guy has sheep strung all over the place – just like the other 15 or so Sheepmen in all of ID. I believe it is Carlson who bought out Idaho Lieutenant Brad Little’s sheep permit in the Boise Foothills – where domestic sheep bands continue to trash Hulls Gulch and other areas – just above the fancy new TNC building – eroding the trails and pooping in the stream and stinking up the area. I wonder if he still owes Little money on that deal? Must be some reason the Otter-Little cabal is spending hundreds of thousands in staff and other time babying this operation. Interestingly, BLM requires that if there are liens on properties/permits, the info be in its files. Prying that info out of BLM is not easy.

    How much has BLM spent over the years “subsidizing” the domestic sheep destruction of public lands and denying science in these areas?

  18. nabeki Avatar

    Awesome news!!!! One more victory in the fight to get livestock off public lands. This made my day and I’m sure the Bighorns as well.


  19. Nathan Avatar

    fantastic victory,
    congrats to those who worked on both the research and the legal efforts to help secure a future for the big horn in this area!

  20. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    kt, I believe it was F Shirts Jr who bought Little’s operations. Carlson is a smaller time operator, who pretty much just takes his sheep where he can trail them around the Main Salmon country (right through key bighorn habitat and migratory routes).

    It’s interesting that Carlson claims it will take $9,000 a month to feed these 833 sheep if they can’t go on BLM lands. Makes it clear that the permittees’ real interest is the cheap forage. Since 5 sheep equal 1 AUM, his 833 sheep divided by 5 = $166/month that Carlson pays for the use of the BLM lands.

    Shows the absolute ripoff of taxpayers going on with public lands grazing, besides the irreparable damage to the native bighorn population.

  21. Debra K Avatar
    Debra K

    Just re-read my post above from last night–the math is off, shows the hazards of blogging after a couple glasses of wine.

    The 166 number is AUMs, which then needs to be multiplied by $1.35 per month for the federal grazing fee per AUM. So the actual monthly fee that a permittee would pay for 833 sheep, or 166 AUMs, is somewhere around $210, by my rough calculation. Still very cheap in light of the amount of forage being consumed, the damage being done, gov. administration costs, etc.

    Besides impacting bighorns by disease, the domestic sheep in the Main Salmon area are consuming a lot of forage that should go to bighorn, elk, deer and other wildlife in this crucial winter grazing area.

  22. Jay Barr Avatar
    Jay Barr

    Let’s not forget to praise the Nez Perce Tribe’s efforts in acquiring the scientific data that goes into countering the federal agencies in these battles to preserve bighorns and their habitat.


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.

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Ken Cole