Domestic sheep removed from East Fork Bitteroot

Sheep tested positive for Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae

Bighorn sheep in Montana and elsewhere suffered severe losses this winter at the hands of pneumonia. In the East Fork herd bighorn were seen interacting with domestic sheep near Sula, Montana. Those domestic sheep were relocated earlier this year and another herd has been removed from the area to protect the remaining 87 bighorn sheep that survived the outbreak this winter.

Survival of lambs is the big remaining concern in the affected populations and it is being closely monitored.

Bighorn Sheep, Hells Canyon © Ken Cole
Bighorn Sheep, Hells Canyon © Ken Cole

Domestic East Fork sheep removed.
by PERRY BACKUS – Ravalli Republic



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  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    This is good news after a predictable tragedy.

    Where are the other wildlife groups on this?

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      If one starts a forest fire on the National Forest, one will be billed by the National Forest. If one grazes infected sheep on our National Forest and infects our sheep one should get a bill from the FWP. Those are very large Big Horn Sheep with a number of them going B/C. Last winter the Montana Big Horn Sheep permit sold for over $200,000, add all of the sheep up and that is a bill only a billionaire could pay.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      From the reports last winter and especially this early spring, I’d say 1000 or so bighorn died all over the West from this disease.

      Wish there was more anger, but I think Western Watersheds Project might be successful soon getting the Payette National Forest to close most or all of the sheep grazing allotments that threaten bighorn in Hells Canyon and the lower canyon of the Salmon River.

    3. WM Avatar


      I love your logic on the duty and financial responsibility of a livestock owner causing a problem on federal lands or to state wildlife – let me see- pneumonia and other diseases on bighorns, brucellosis on bison, and all those damn hay borne weeds from horsefeed that has caused tens/hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. I suspect this is merely the tip of the iceberg.

    4. JB Avatar


      While I agree with your sentiments, I find the fact that a Big Horn permit sold for over $200,000 down right troubling. Wildlife are supposed to be a public resource accessible to everyone; I find it offensive that all but the richest Americans can’t afford to buy a permit to hunt. Are we moving back towards the aristocratic approach that many of are ancestors so deplored?

      I got word yesterday that the theme of these year’s Ohio Fish & Wildlife Management Association conference is privatization of wildlife resources; this is a trend we all need to be concerned about.

    5. Elk275 Avatar


      I do not disagree with you. Once you sell one permit then a market value has been established, but we are all whores for money.

  2. BigSky Avatar

    Seems like most wildlife conservation or environmental groups engage very little on bighorns in the northwest. Given their rareness, continuing disease caused dieoffs, and habitat loss, it seems strange. Maybe a relative context of their numbers to other native ungulates or even to rarer carnivores is lacking, or even a comparison of current populations and ranges compared to historic and then compared to other species for context. They really are doing poorly compared to almost any other species in the northwest, certainly for prey/ungulate species.

    1. Elk275 Avatar


      ++Seems like most wildlife conservation or environmental groups engage very little on bighorns in the northwest. Given their rareness, continuing disease caused die offs, and habitat loss, it seems strange. ++

      I do not feel that environmental groups need to be involved with bighorns. The Wildsheep Foundation works on it full time and has the ability to raise millions of dollars every year. The money is used to reintroduce sheep to there former range wherever possible and the maintenance or healthy herds. The problem with environmental groups is that some members are anti hunting and it is and was the hunters who rebuilt the bighorns in the last 50 years. When Montana can sell at auction 1 bighorn permit good anywhere in the state during the stated season for between $200,000 and $250,000 then something has been done right.

      The State of Montana and other western states have done the best possible job managing bighorns given the land ownership and political pressures.

    2. JB Avatar

      “When Montana can sell at auction 1 bighorn permit good anywhere in the state during the stated season for between $200,000 and $250,000 then something has been done right.”

      I would argue that when one has to pay the equivalent of the cost of a new home in order to kill a sheep, something has gone horribly wrong. Such ridiculously high prices threaten to again return hunting to a sport only for the wealthy elite (aristocracy). Moreover, these prices only encourage privatization is entrepreneurs realize there is lots of money to be made in wildlife. Finally, such prices threaten to discourage participation in hunting, which is already a pretty expensive sport to get involved in.

      In my view, these prices are a symptom of funding wildlife conservation management (almost) exclusively through hunting. Diversification of funding is what is needed, not entrenchment and further reliance upon hunters.

      – – – –

      P.S. Some hunting groups advocate the total (or at least functional) eradication of wolves and other predators. As much as I disagree with them, they have a right to advocate this position. Animal rights groups are no different.

    3. Ken Cole Avatar


      While I believe that the Wild Sheep Foundation does a lot of good work to benefit bighorn sheep they do not have the ability to bring litigation on their behalf. Western Watersheds Project has brought litigation that has the potential to bring about landmark changes to how the USFS manages domestic sheep grazing on public lands. The Payette National Forest is updating their Land Management Plan in response to litigation brought by WWP that could change the way that all National Forests manage domestic sheep grazing, it could also result in changes to how the BLM manages domestic sheep grazing as well.

    4. WM Avatar


      ++I would argue that when one has to pay the equivalent of the cost of a new home in order to kill a sheep, something has gone horribly wrong. Such ridiculously high prices threaten to again return hunting to a sport only for the wealthy elite (aristocracy). ++

      I would tend to agree with your concern, generally. I would be enraged if it expanded much as a revenue generator. This particular high dollar sheep tag is unique – there is only one tag, as I understand it. Called, the “governor’s sheep tag,” it is sold at auction to the highest bidder, with revenue going to state wildlife conservation. In some respects it is a bit like bidding at a charity auction to have lunch with investment oracle Warren Buffett, the difference being all parties walk away unscathed at the lunch, possibly not so for the sheep on the auction hunt.

    5. Brian Ertz Avatar

      It’s ironic to me how folk are so dismissive of environmentalists’ involvement – particularly in an environment where the so-called hunter groups – that special interest group premised upon the exhibition of excess machismo – are so apt to piss their pants (or alternatively, roll over and pee on their own stomach) at the sight of a cowboy hat – and it’s up to we enviros to stand up for the resource at issue – whether it be bighorn, elk, antelope, etc.

      The hunter groups need to grow a pair and stand up to the entrenched Livestock interests that dominate big game management in the states. The first step toward that is to root out Livestock interests from their own ranks. They won’t. That failure to take on the political corruption is fatal to bighorn sheep – and it is a fundamental failure that undermines all other superficial band-aids no matter how much the superfluous cost involved.

      Dropping bighorns into disease-ridden domestic sheep allotments on public lands isn’t restoration – it’s short-term stocking to say something’s being done. It’s a death-sentence.

      the real problem, as it is with so many wildlife (including big-game) issues is the presence and prevalence of domestic livestock on the land at issue. Look around you Elk275 – there ain’t a ‘hunting-group’ around with the cojones to take on that fact.

    6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      I just back for visiting family in Utah. I’m not unpacked yet but I need to chime in.

      Brian Ertz is so right.

      For such monetarily valuable animals (rightfully so or not), the premier hunting groups for bighorn are gutless and nearly worthless.

      Most conservation groups too do not do much with bighorn sheep.

      The Western Watersheds Project is one of the few who have the huevos to take on the woolgrowers, the domestic sheep, who are by far the greatest threat to bighorn sheep in the West.

    7. Elk275 Avatar

      I just got off of the phone after an hour with a director of the Wild Sheep Foundation. What JB, Ken and Brain are saying is true they do not want to be too green and half of the organization is Canadian which does not have any interest in ligitation.

    8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Thanks Elk,

      They don’t have to be green. They just have to hate the sight and smell of the range maggots where they travel near bighorn range — both actual and potential range.

    9. SEAK Mossback Avatar
      SEAK Mossback

      Every time you use that term, range maggots, in reference to sheep it brings back a gagging memory of a walk on Clay Butte between Cooke City and Red Lodge, after a dusting of fresh snow around the 1st of September. I noticed two sets of fresh black bear tracks on the snow and was following them back where they came from when I came across one of their deposits – it looked just like a plate of rice and gravy. What the heck! I kept going and came to a gulley that out of the corner of my eye appeared to be filled up with white boulders and there was a sound like water rushing, but more of a hiss. It was filled with dead sheep with maggots boiling out and literally cascading downhill over them for some distance like a stream. I would have been brought to my knees long before seeing it had I approached from downwind. I guess it was an entire season’s dead just tossed in there. And that was before wolves returned and when grizzlies were at their nadir. My folks raised sheep in northern California until the early 1960s and I remember my mother listing off all the ways they could find to die, including some pretty ridiculous ones like getting too heavy after a rain and rolling down hill to their death . . . . . . . and of course there were many that keeled over for no discernable reason. Sorry . . . . . I suppose it’s still dinner time in the mountain time zone?

      Anyway, I agree that hunting groups often develop an unfortunate nutless stance, particularly when they mature enough to draw in the deep pockets that have a lot of other interests that conflict with protecting habitat for elk, bighorn sheep, etc. Some of the most important donors have so much money they can afford to hunt strictly on private land so are uninterested (or sometimes philosophically opposed) to acquiring or protecting land for public use. I considered starting a group called “The Sitka Blacktailed Deer Foundation” to weigh in on logging plans, public land give-aways, etc. Rich, high-profile, compromising donors would not be a problem as these deer have close to zero trophy appeal and non-resident hunting interest . . . . . not too many rich folks are into creeping around all day in a rainforest. Besides, our official publication would not be “Bugle” . . . . It would be “Bleat”.

    10. JB Avatar

      I really hate the word “green”. It grossly oversimplifies and stereotypes people who care about the natural environment for a variety of reasons (the same way “tree-hugger” was used in the 80s and 90s). Similar to the stereotypes that are thrown around for hunters, it is purposefully employed by those who wish to divide us; to keep hunters from uniting/collaborating/communicating with the non-hunting conservation community. The use of these terms invokes or “primes” what psychologists refer to as our “social identities,” which, in turn, tends to lead to biased decision making based upon these social affiliations (i.e. Joe is a hunter > I’m a hunter > Joe is like me > I’ll agree with Joe). We could accomplish a lot more for conservation were we willing to leave these behind.

    11. WM Avatar


      My recollections of the term “conservation” was for many years associated with hunting and other wildlife interests without much of a distinction. Then somewhere along the line the term was appropriated (some might say hijacked) by groups that had previously been called “preservationists.” I think the distinction even showed up in the literature a fair amount. Sierra Club and the like were often referred to as “preservationist” organizations. Maybe the marketing changed. I still think of hunters as having environmental interests whether they can be called conservationists today seems to be up in the air. But for purposes of discussion, lets call one group environmentalists and the other hunters, even though it doesn’t fit neatly.

      Some have suggested a need for alliance between environmental interests and hunter interests, predicting that such a unified front would be more successful in dislodging these vested livestock overlords. That may be. And short term benefits for env/hunter groups would result. The longer term effects on respective interests are more speculative.

      There is risk to hunter interests in becoming too entwined in such a strategy, and that may explain hunter organization group reluctance to show strong distain for livestock power elite. The fear is that if an env/hunter alliance is successful, extreme environmental interests (not all but some very strong ones) will then turn on their one time allies and work to eliminate all hunting. One does not have to look far to see who will be at the head of the charge. National organizations like HSUS (anti-hunting to its very core and involved in the Great Lakes wolf litigation), Defenders of Wildlife (their tolerance of hunting is only an acknowledgement that a stronger, more true to their historic leanings, would amp up the debate over wolves, griz and polarize the ESA issues even more), Center for Biological Diversity (an emerging loosely affiliated academic oriented group who views a West filled with predators in ecological balance with prey, and absent human hunters). Then there are the, as yet unknown, regional and local non-profit organizations who have yet to show their true colors.

      Conventional wisdom would suggest hunter groups are moving forward with great caution. Remaining with the devil you know is less risky, than forging new alliances, and running the risk of being piked from behind at the end of the battle.

      And, that is sad.

    12. SEAK Mossback Avatar
      SEAK Mossback

      I agree that getting piked from behind is more than a possibility from some groups. However, to be most effective, hunting groups need to discard some of the ideology and paranoia and be true to their interests, forming alliances around certain issues (like public grazing, destruction of multi-age forest, etc.) while deciding to go in another direction on others. However, that takes some self-confidence – being very clear and open about positions and what is important and not getting caught up in ideology. I think a lot of what is holding them back is internal, perhaps brought on by cultural biases toward rural folk and against city folk, toward ranchers and against “enviros”, etc. (some brought on by a history of gun control battles), that pollutes purity of purpose and restricts freedom of movement when it comes to effectively promoting their real interests.

    13. JB Avatar


      As I understand it, the term “conservation” was applied by Pinchot and Roosevelt at the beginning of the Progressive Era; the term “preservation” or “preservationist” came along later to differentiate the views of people like Muir, who were less use-oriented and believed in protecting nature for nature’s sake. If I recollect correctly, the real split came in the first decade of the 20th century over the Hetch-Hetchy dam. I wonder how many conservationists today think that dam was a good idea?

    14. WM Avatar


      Yes I am aware of the historical distinctions of the “conservation” and “preservation” terms from the Roosevelt era. The use and appropriation of the term “conservation” is of more recent times, possibly the eighties (Reagan era?, maybe later) when the large environmental organizations began to market themselves in a way to appeal to a broader membership base.

      Yes the Hetch Hetchy is a sad story, but what is one to do when the City of San Francisco has its eye on a pristine water supply to serve in perpetuity. There is a parallel and rather detailed comparison to what happened in the evolution and eventual creation of Olympic NP (Olympic Battleground by Carson Lein, Mountaineers Press). There, the lure was old growth timber, and unfortunately not many people to police the rape of the land by timber companies. And, of course, you can only cut an old growth rain forest tree once every six hundred to a thousand years.



      I agree with you that the paranoia among hunter groups must be set aside to work the common ground with certain environmental interests, risks acknowledged. The federal grazing lands issue is certainly the most obvious and easy to pick off in terms of cause – effect. The sheep issue on this thread is a stellar example.

      The politics of this are incredibly complex, and the approach of WWP is seemingly effective, albeit slow and incremental on specific chunks of land, forcing BLM, FS and select states to do as required under the laws and regulations they are responsible for administering. The suits, are for the most part, unable to get to the core of the problem, which requires going after the Taylor Grazing Act and FLPMA for legislative changes. Hunter groups, to the extent they even exist, are not sufficiently educated, staffed (no sophistication) or even suited for either task, in my view.

  3. pointswest Avatar

    +++The problem with environmental groups is that some members are anti hunting and it is and was the hunters who rebuilt the bighorns in the last 50 years. +++

    …some “environmental groups” are also anti-social. Man has been hunting in North America for at least 20,000 years. Many so called environmentalist forget that hunting is natural too. In fact, not hunting is unnatural.

    I believe some of the problems with bears becoming “conditioned” towards humans could be greatly abated if some minimal hunting of bears was allowed within the Park. I am not advocating it, at this point, but as bear densities increase and bear-human problems increase inside the Park, this option might be considered. We should keep track of how many bears are killed or removed from Yellowstone as being “too conditioned to humans” and compare that to a few being killed by a legal hunt each year.

    You are always going to have more money for programs where people can participate in something. People can participate in hunting. How do people participate in environmentalism…by killing themselves and leaving all their money to buy land for wolves and grizzlies? Wildlife viewing is becoming popular and I believe it has a future. In fact, I would like to see Island Park, Idaho annexed into Yellowstone Park because it would offer superb wildlife viewing. But it really is only safe when people are on horseback or near their car….and you need something like a Park to create roads and parking for wildlife viewing.

  4. Cindy Avatar

    Hunting bears in Yellowstone National park..really, really? And then you say those of us considered conservationists have only two ways to support and participate in the well being of our wild ife here in the west? One by killing ourselves? And two by leaving money? Oh boy, too late in the day to even try and tackle such foolishness.

    1. pointswest Avatar

      I said, “some environmental groups” and I said, “minimal hunting.”

      The hunting would only be under the condition that the grizzly has fully recovered and is delisted. I would also like to see a larger National Park that might include most of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Huge. That is my suggestion for the entire controversy….compromise. Compromise is the American way. Have a larger Park (also have one in central Idaho) but soften the rules a little especially at the edges. Allow minimal and highly restricted hunting, allow some “round-log” horse logging in some areas…possibly allow some very restricted grazing in peripheral areas already grazed; but have two very big Parks dedicated to preserving wolves, grizzlies, wolverines, cougars, moose, elk, deer, etc., and the wildlife would have priority. I’m sorry but I do not see any other way.

      What we have now is management by lawsuit so the side who has the most money for legal costs decides the future. Over time, what do you think will happen to all the wildlife habitat in the region if it is not set aside and preserved? Are environmental groups going to continue preservation by lawsuit indefinitely? Will there always always be conservation groups around to wage legal battles? I am somewhat pessimistic about this notion.

      I believe we should have a compromise. We should have big Parks with soft edges and more inclusive useage. This would be a typical American type compromise and it might even work.

  5. Elk275 Avatar


    Yellowstone can not be expanded except by congressional approval. In the 1930’s Yellowstone expanded outward from northwest, a new federal law was past restricting the expansion of Yellowstone Park If new wilderness areas cannot be created try expanding Yellowstone. By the way in the far northwest corner of Yellowstone in the odd numbered sections the minerals are owned by the railroad, the only private property in the park.

    I do not like this idea. I do not like national parks, I love wilderness areas. National Park rangers are a piece of work, forest/wilderness rangers I can deal with. There are thousands and thousands of acres of private property that would have to be dealt with. You have indicated that Island Park should be a part of Yellowstone, then what is going to happen to the Rail Road Ranch? Would the ranch become federal property instead of a Idaho State Park.

    1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
      SEAK Mossback

      Elk –
      I tend to agree about NPS management versus other agencies. Having grown up in YNP, the last (well honestly not quite the last) thing I wanted to see happen to Alaska in 1979-80 was for large parts of it to follow that model. A National Park is an outdoor museum for you, a gortex-clad alien from outer space, to observe but never touch under the guidance and strict control of the NPS. It’s fine in moderate doses (and Yellowstone qualifies is a moderate dose) but should not be the model for the world.

      I absolutely love the Arctic Wildlife Refuge (designated wilderness), where people seem to really take care of it without frequent inspections and uniformed visits. However, bordering just to the east are two Canadian parks where you not only can’t hunt, but you can’t even build a campfire out of dead willow, despite the fact that there is extremely low visitation.

    2. pointswest Avatar

      It could be done. You could have land swaps. You could allow some private land to remain and grandfather other private land out. Many private land owners could swap for land adjacent to the new Park boundries or could simply be given grandfather rights as was done in Teton Park. I believe there is still one active ranch within Teton Park waiting for the grandchildren of the original owners to pass away.

      I have many ideas.

      I have a love/hate relationship with Yellowstone. I love that it has so strongly preserved the land. I hate not being able to carry a gun. I hate the strict catch and release rules that are not necessary in some areas. I hate having to having to camp in designated sites on designated nights. The extreme reins supreme inside of Yellowstone Park. Some of this could change if the Park was expanded. Parts might be more like a wilderness area. There could be a comprehensive plan and policies that make sense and that are grounded in reality.

      When I worked for the Targhee, the managers loved to walk up to the Park boundary and piss from a clearcut in the Targhee into the undisturbed forest wilderness just inside of the Park. It seems like it was technically illegal to piss in the Park but as long as your feet were inside of the Targhee, Park rangers could not touch you. The Targhee mangers loved pissing into the Park. They did it every time they were up on the Fish Creek Road and near the boundary and it made their day.

      I’m sure there would be things about a big Park I would not like, but development in the area is accelerating. After living in California for a few years and seeing how development has consumed virtually all of the California coast from Santa Barbra to San Diego and beyond, it is development that scares me more than anything. As these preservation issues heat up and appear in the national news, it only stimulates people to want to own a precious part of that being preserved. It is going to be loved to death. Jackson Hole is already some of the most expensive real estate in the country and parts of Montana and Idaho near the Park are following behind.

      I have scene a tremendous change to the area in my lifetime. I do not even want to describe the changes I’ve seen because it depresses me. I’m certain the changes will continue and will accelerate. I notice there are no grizzlies in Colorado or in California. I think people who recreate in these areas and who might own cabins or condos do not want them. This attitude could develop in Idaho and in the Yellowstone area. So while I might not like many aspects of a big Park, I think it is better than any of the alternatives. The worst alternative is to do nothing and let development continue to creep in unabated and eventually take over and this is the most likely thing to happen.

    3. JB Avatar

      Just as an FYI…

      Being part of a National Park does not preclude federal wilderness designation. For example, Isle Royal is managed by the NPS and it is all designated as wilderness. Wilderness must be designated by Congress but Congress gives oversight to whichever agency was managing the land prior to its designation.

    4. WM Avatar


      I agree with your assessment of NPS administration of reserved areas. I have long held the view that if you really want to screw up a national resource make it a national park, focus more and more people on visiting it with that designation (NPS even markets visiting the parks in various ways, as do their hotel and transportation vendors) . It requires a certain mind-set of administators and resource commmittments. National monuments and wildlife refuges, combined with wilderness designation in NF areas seem to give certain levels of protection necessary for most activities, while avoiding some of the marketing and NPS staffing issues (the kind that Bob Jackson frequently refers to). Some would say other Interior (FWS, BLM) or Dept of Ag (FS) is no better. For the most part my experience suggests otherwise.

      My wife and I were in Mesa Verde about four years ago and wanted to get a large format photo of Spruce Tree House. This cliff dwelling had florescent cones placed in several areas to direct visitor foot trafffic away from hazards. They would have been very distracting to the photo. It was late afternoon after visitor hours. I nicely asked a Park employee if they would mind removing the cones for just a few minutes for my wife to get the photo (It would have taken maybe five minutes at most to move the cones). The park employee just said no, with a kind of smirk on her face – no rational explanation, even upon my gentle urging and why we wanted them moved. Still on the clock. This jerk was from South Carolina, accroding to her name tag. She was into the power thing.

  6. pointswest Avatar

    I wonder how many know what is going to happen in Idaho Falls starting next year in 2011. Let me tell you because it is going to have a profound effect on the Yellowstone region. A company owned by the French government named Areva is going to build a uranium enrichment facility and it is going to be large. The estimated cost of construction is now up $3.3 billion dollars since they have expanded their original plans. That is three thousand three hundred million dollars. It is around $80,000 for every man, woman, and child in Idaho Falls. I would be the equivalent of building a new quarter million dollar home for every family in Idaho Falls.

    I was living in Albuquerque when Intel built a $1 billion chip plant there. It turned the economy on its head. Albuquerque grew from 400,000 to 800,000 people in a decade. Traffic became a nightmare. Cost for everything went up. There was construction everywhere…roads, buildings, sewers, powerlines, schools, etc. Imagine what Areva is going to do to Idaho Falls, a community of 50,000 people with $3.3 billion. Also, since there are many byproducts from the enrichment process and since there will be a technical pool of engineers, scientists, and technicians, other businesses are also expected to move into Idaho Falls in Areva’s wake.

    How many people from Idaho Falls are going to want a little getaway up in Island Park or in Teton Valley that they can drive to on the weekends? What will traffic be like in Yellowstone Park on the 4th of July weekends when Idaho Falls grows to 200,000 people? How will all of this affect wildlife and ecology?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Thanks for the heads up, but I think the huge amount of money will go by for machinery and technology from elsewhere. The money will flow there, not to Idaho.

      It will employ a substantial labor force, but many will come from outside Idaho and leave on completion.

      Being a capital intensive project, the employment figures that count in the long term (and for recreational use) are the final, stable, permanent employee levels.

      Sadly, my prediction for Idaho is economic depression because of the national economy and the failure of the state to educate a workforce worth hiring for well paying jobs (Butch Otter’s worldview is one that creates bad jobs only).

  7. pointswest Avatar

    I happen to work in the construction industry and have worked on billion dollar chip plants and other high tech buildings. A rule of thumb is that construction costs is 1/3 for materials and 2/3 labor. I’m sure you are right that in the case of this enrichment facility, a larger proportion of cost will be for materials such as the centrifuges, but about the highest the material cost will be is half but I think material costs will be less than half. Remember that every part of the building will need to hauled to the site on trucks. Even a 10 million dollar piece of equipment may need to arrive in several parts and be assembled onsite. Each will require support piping, electrical, a foundation, a roof, conditioned air, drainage, control wiring, control panels, system panels and be tied into the process piping. Each will need to be setup, started, inspected, and commissioned onsite by technicians and engineers. The control systems will need to be piped (conduit), wired, installed, tested, started, inspected, and commissioned. The process piping will need to be welded, supported, cleaned, painted, labeled, insulated, filled, tested, started, and commissioned. The system consoles will need to be installed, piped, wired, tested, started, inspected, and commissioned.

    I know all this…it is what I do for a living.

    Areva has changed their plans. It is going to be nearly twice as large as when originally announced. The original cost was $2 billion as where now they are talking $3.3 billion. The job creation numbers were, at one time, about 400 full time jobs for operation of the facility and nearly 5000 jobs during construction. These are, however, only direct jobs. In addition to the 400 direct operations jobs, for example, you will have indirect or contract jobs. You will have, for example, janitorial contracts where some Idaho Falls cleaning company will employ a dozen or so people to clean the facility. You will have added delivery drivers and truck drivers who deliver people and materials to the facility. The facility will always need maintenance and repair so plumbers, pipefitters, carpenters, electricians, and a whole host of technicians that live in Idaho Falls will be working at that facility on a contract basis. So there will be about 500 or more jobs created by the facility itself. That is 500 new families in Idaho Falls or about 2000 additional people. These 2000 additional people are going to need additional roads, additional houses, additional schools, additional stores, additional police, additional lawyers, etc., etc. I believe the ratio economists use is that every full time job created by some facility like this will create three more jobs. So now we are talking about 2000 jobs and 8000 new people drawn to Idaho Falls by the facility itself.

    In addition to Areva, there are already other companies announcing plans to construct facilities in Idaho Falls because of the enrichment facility. One company I read about was going to produce radio active material for the medical industry, for example. There will be others. Areva itself might expand or add other facilities at Idaho Falls. The 5000 construction workers may never leave and only move onto the next project. 5000 construction jobs might mean 20,000 new jobs total, which, in turn, might mean 80,000 more people.

    I think much depends on how many nuclear reactors go online in the USA and Canada the coming decade. The US may turn to nuclear energy in a big way. Idaho Falls will boom.

    I think, at the very least, Idaho Falls will double its population by 2021.

    1. WM Avatar


      Other than a regulatory capacity is the US government at all involved in funding this facility? Is it in any way related to activities in Idaho Nat. Laboratory and the work EG&G does?

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar


      Thanks for your job based insights. Your job figures might be right. I wrote nothing that suggested they were not.

      My basic point is that this is taking place in a bad recession (and, so making it welcome to most people). Because of all the unemployment in Idaho, the population increase will be less, maybe much less, than if this came during a good economy.

    3. pointswest Avatar


      Areva did get a loan guarantee from the Fed as part of a large Federal program to subsidize nuclear power.

      Other than the loan guarantee, the enrichment facility has nothing to do with the Fed, with INEL, or with EG&G except than can tap into and expand the Idaho Falls technical pool.

      I think there are three reasons they chose Idaho Falls and I will list them in order of importance.

      1) Idaho Falls is nuke-friendly and has been for decades. They do not need to worry about the local-yokels getting fired up with “no-nukes” pickets and running them out of business.

      2) Friendly government/low taxes. Idaho gave them big tax incentives.

      3) As mentioned, there is small technical pool already in Idaho Fall…engineers, scientists, and technicians who work at INEL and EG&G. It will be easier for them to attract and keep good technical people in Idaho Falls. Simple things like high-purity welding takes highly skilled labor.

    4. pointswest Avatar


      I think there will be so many jobs, the unemployed in Idaho will not even begin to fill the void. Probably half the jobs will be skilled labor…plumbers, electricians, pipe fitters, tin knockers, iron workers, welders, journeyman carpenters, masons, and concrete finishers. These will need to come from out-of-state since there are simply not that many skilled workers in Idaho.

      But there will be many other jobs. Store clerks, drivers, admins, cooks, etc., etc. There will be many unsklled labor jobs that anyone could do….even someone like jon.


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