Suit Filed to Protect Bighorn Sheep in Hells Canyon and Salmon River Canyon

© Ken Cole

Yesterday, Western Watersheds Project, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, and The Wilderness Society filed a motion in federal district court seeking to halt domestic sheep grazing on three allotments in the Payette National Forest in order to protect imperiled bighorn sheep in Hells Canyon, and native bighorns in the Salmon River Canyon.

In 2010, the Forest had agreed to phase in the closure of hundreds of thousands of acres of public land to grazing to protect Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep from fatal diseases transmitted by domestic sheep.

However, the agency intends to retreat from this plan by allowing grazing to continue in 2012 because of political pressure and a misreading of the language included in a rider on the 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act.

The rider, originally inserted by Rep. Mike Simpson (ID), but later reworked into dramatically different final language capable of passing Congress, precludes the use of federal funds for:

“[M]anagement restrictions on domestic sheep [on Forest Service lands] in excess of the management restrictions that existed on July 1, 2011.”

The Payette Decision was finalized in 2010 and the management restrictions were already in place well before the rider’s deadline.  In fact, the sole permittee affected by the Payette Decision this year signed the modified permit restricting use of the allotments at issue in February 2011, months prior to the rider’s restriction.


  1. Ovis Avatar

    I’ve heard that this “rider” from Representative Simpson is the ultimate in special favors legislation. It is a legislative provision that benefits just one large sheep operation.

  2. Ken Cole Avatar

    You are correct, there is only one operator who benefits from Simpson’s rider and that is Soulen Livestock who has received $1.2 million in subsidies from taxpayers.

    1. Kristi Avatar

      Mikey loves him some riders, doesn’t he?

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Brian Ertz