Gutting Bighorn Sheep Protections

Fiscal Year 2012 – House Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill – Part 3

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole
Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Another provision of the House Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill would make it impossible for land management agencies to help bighorn sheep by reducing interaction with disease ridden domestic sheep if it might conceivably reduce livestock grazing.  Because of the precedent set by the decision made by the Payette National Forest the BLM and US Forest Service are currently developing policy which would help deal with conflicts between bighorn and domestic sheep and domestic goats but the language in the bill would stifle that and give domestic sheep producers free reign over our public lands while populations of bighorn sheep would continue to decline.

SEC. 442. None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act through fiscal year 2016 may be used to plan or carry out any action or any subsequent agency regulation for managing bighorn sheep (whether native or nonnative) populations on any parcel of Federal land (as defined in section 3 of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (16 U.S.C. 6502)) if the action may or will result in a reduction in the number of domestic livestock permitted to graze on the parcel or in the distribution of livestock on the parcel.

As you can see from the attached map, that I made from incomplete data, there are bighorn and domestic sheep conflicts throughout the west.  I only  have data for sheep grazing on US Forest Service allotments in Idaho and the bighorn sheep data from Arizona, New Mexico, and California is limited.

In 2007 the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA), at the request of the USFS and BLM, developed guidelines for managing conflicts between domestic sheep/goats and bighorn but the agencies have never adopted them.  They recommend separation as the best way to avoid disease transmission since bighorn and domestic sheep interactions often go undetected.  In particular, they recommend a 9 mile separation, which is a compromise from what is really needed.

Bighorn Sheep and Domestic Sheep and Goat Allotments
Bighorn Sheep and Domestic Sheep and Goat Allotments (click for larger view)

Fiscal Year 2012 Interior-Environment Appropriations Bill


  1. Ryan Avatar

    Not Good.. Glad the messiah is doing so good for wildlife.

    1. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      When politicians help commercial users of public land ride rough-shod over every environmental concern that stands in their way, both hunting and non-hunting conservationists lose.

    2. JB Avatar

      I think you mean the Republican-dominated House of Representatives?

  2. Ken Cole Avatar

    I think we know what Larry Craig is doing behind the scenes these days.

    1. timz Avatar

      you mean besides toe-tapping in some bathroom stall somewhere?

  3. Elk275 Avatar

    I am going to send a copy of this to one of my good friends who is the chairman of the Wild Sheep Foundation.

  4. Brian Ertz Avatar

    You might note that this earmark was put into the bill to benefit only a couple of individual sheep ranchers.

    It’s remarkable – the political representation these guys get – whilst the rest of the public is left out

  5. Christopher Avatar

    Just more evidence of kleptomaniacal incorporation of our country and the death of whatever democracy we did have.

  6. Christopher Avatar

    I should add that at the rate things are going, there will be little left to fight for or discuss. Sorry folks just feeling incredibly frustrated in the current state of affairs.


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