Cronyism: Mike Simpson renews Bighorn Sheep Disease rider in 2013 Interior Appropriations Bill.

Update: June 27, 2012

Congressman Mike Simpson has withdrawn his proposed new rider which the story below is about. He said he is going to try to bring people together in a roundtable soon. He also said his new rider had amplified the rhetoric on the issue which was not what he wanted. Ralph Maughan

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Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho has added an amendment to the 2013 Interior Appropriations Bill which passed yesterday out of the House Interior and the Environment Appropriations Subcommittee which he chairs. The rider effectively stops the Forest Service and the BLM from implementing any further restrictions on domestic sheep grazing in areas of high risk for contact with bighorn sheep. But, more specifically, it coddles just two domestic sheep ranchers on the Payette National Forest who are facing further cuts in the third phase of grazing closures on the Payette National Forest.

One of the permittees who will benefit from this move is Soulen Livestock Company, owned in part by Margaret Soulen-Hinson, the president of the American Sheep Industry Association, and Teresa Little, the wife of Lieutenant Governor Brad Little. Between 1995 and 2010, Soulen Livestock Co received government subsidy payments totaling $1,246,818.

This move comes after a court ruling last week which let the second phase of the Payette Decision move forward. The decision closes 70% of the sheep grazing on the Payette National Forest in central Idaho and was a result of years of scientific study and more than 15,000 comments from the public.

This move clearly contradicts what Simpson has said in the past about his reasoning for the language he inserted in last year’s 2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act. In a letter to a constituent, and on his own website, Simpson explained that the language of this rider would not affect the Payette Decision and was only intended to prevent the grazing plan on the Payette from being implemented elsewhere for one year.

I have heard from a number of individuals who are concerned about this issue, and I believe it is important to clarify a few points.

  • First, at this point the only place where grazing allotments have been closed is on the Payette National Forest. This language simply prevents the grazing plan on the Payette to be implemented elsewhere for one year. Under the language, the current status on the Payette meets the viability criteria for bighorn sheep.

Simpson was also interviewed for Idaho Public Television’s Dialogue program in October of 2011 where he says:

“It doesn’t overturn the decision that was made on the Payette Forest. Some people think it does. It doesn’t reverse that decision, that decision still stays in place. What we’re essentially saying is ‘Don’t use that decision to then make planning in other forests around the country’.”

Simpson made it clear that last year’s rider was not intended to change the implementation of the Payette Decision. However, in an article that appeared in the Capital Press, Nikki Watts, communications director for Mike Simpson, said

“Judge Winmill’s decision did not follow congressional intent. Congressman Simpson’s provision was meant to freeze grazing as it currently existed, not as it was planned to be reduced by the forest.”

Which is it? Either way, the intent of Simpson’s language is to bypass science and the public process to benefit his elite political friends in Idaho and elsewhere.

There is no longer any debate that domestic sheep transmit deadly disease to bighorn sheep when they come into contact. They simply cannot co-exist on the same landscape and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) Wild Sheep Working Group has issued recommendations which specifically recommend that the agencies “[m]anage domestic sheep or goat grazing to achieve effective separation, reduce risk of association, and avoid range overlap with wild sheep.” That’s what the Payette Decision does and that is what Simpson’s rider keeps the agencies from doing.

These recommendations aren’t simply a theoretical exercise to protect just a few bighorn sheep, they are to protect entire herds of bighorn which have recently suffered large, all-age die-offs across the West. During the winter of 2009/2010, 9 populations of bighorn sheep experienced die-offs in 5 western states and approximately 890 bighorn sheep died. WAFWA has issued a report which outlines these events which you can read here.

This is the text of Section 423 of the 2013 Fiscal Year Interior Appropriations Bill


SEC. 423. (a) PROHIBITION REGARDING POTENTIAL DOMESTIC SHEEP AND BIGHORN SHEEP CONTACT ON NATIONAL FOREST SYSTEM LAND.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law or regulation, including the Record of Decision signed on July 20, 2010 for the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, (other than the Endangered Species Act of 1973 and regulations issued under such Act), none of the funds made available by this Act or made available by any other Act for fiscal year 2013 only may be used to carry out—

(1) any management restrictions on domestic heep on parcels of National Forest System land (as defined in the Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act of 1974 (16 U.S.C. 1609(a))) and public lands (as defined in section 103 of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1702)) with potential domestic sheep and bighorn sheep (whether native or nonnative) contact in excess of the management restrictions that were being implemented on July 1, 2011; or

(2) any other agency regulation for managing bighorn sheep populations on any allotment of such National Forest System land if the management action will result in a reduction in the number of do-mestic livestock permitted to graze on the allotment or in the distribution of livestock on the allotment.

(b) EXCEPTION.—Notwithstanding subsection (a), the Secretary of Agriculture may make such management changes as the Secretary determines to be necessary to manage bighorn sheep if the management changes—

(1) are consistent with the wildlife plans of the relevant State fish and game agency and determined in consultation with that agency; and

(2) are developed in consultation with the affected permittees.

(c) VOLUNTARY CLOSURE OF ALLOTMENTS.—Noth13 ing in this section shall be construed as limiting the voluntary closure of existing domestic sheep allotments when the closure is agreed to in writing between the permittee and the Secretary of the Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture and is carried out for the purpose of reducing conflicts between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep.

(d) WAIVER OF GRAZING PERMITS AND LEASES.— The Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture may accept the voluntary waiver of any valid existing lease or permit authorizing grazing on National Forest System land described in subsection (a) or public lands described in subsection (c). If the grazing permit or lease for a grazing allotment is only partially within the area of potential domestic sheep and bighorn sheep contact, the affected permittee may elect to waive only the portion of the grazing permit or lease that is within that area. The Secretary concerned shall—

(1) terminate each permit or lease waived or portion of a permit or lease waived under this subsection;

(2) ensure a permanent end to domestic sheep grazing on the land covered by the waived permit or lease or waived portion of the permit or lease unless or until there is no conflict with bighorn sheep management; and (3) provide for the reimbursement of range improvements in compliance with section 4 of the Act of June 28, 1934 (commonly known as the Taylor Grazing Act; 43 U.S.C. 315c).


  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Simpson has a number of additional obnoxious provisions in the Interior Appropriations bill that just passed his subcommittee.

    This is copied from his web page:

    A provision prohibiting the EPA from requiring permits for stormwater runoff from forest roads through FY2013;
    A provision prohibiting the EPA from changing the definition of “navigable waterways” under the Clean Water Act;
    Making permanent a provision enabling the BLM and Forest Service to renew expired grazing permits while focusing environmental review on the most environmentally sensitive areas;
    A provision allowing the trailing of livestock to grazing allotments on public lands without unnecessary environmental review;
    A provision allowing the 20 year grazing permits for the Forest Service and BLM;
    A provision requiring agencies to make information regarding payments for legal fees to litigants who sue the federal government available to the public;
    A provision putting an effective hiring freeze on EPA employees, rejecting the President’s proposal to hire additional regulators.

    He is working hard to make our public lands the de facto property of a few political influential ranchers and politicians. He calls all environmental analysis and regulation unnecessary as it relates to livestock, when in fact just the opposite is true.

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Mike Simpson has shown that he can be bought. He is corrupted by money just like all the rest of them.
    Republicans and Democrats are just two divisions of the same Corporate Party that controls our country.
    Bush=Obama=Romney There is NO real difference.
    They all get their marching orders from the same Israeli Firsters on Wall Street.

    1. JB Avatar

      “Bush=Obama=Romney There is NO real difference.”

      Horse sh|t, Larry. The difference has been and will continue to be on display in every Supreme Court decision (many of which are along party lines). And those folks keep their jobs for a long, long time. Another appointee like Alito or Scalia could fundamentally change interpretations of Constitutional law that have been in place since the Great Depression. There is far more at stake in this election then most people realize.

      1. timz Avatar

        Not a Romney fan and won’t vote for him but no way Obama deserves another term. he is a complete and utter failure from the environment to the economy, to foreign policy and everything in between. Based on his performance there is no way one can honestly say “it could be worse”.

    2. WM Avatar

      I think Larry is right in that Wall St. runs America, and it is getting much worse as the tentacles run ever deeper to the very core of our government. Congress has been ineffective in making leadership decisions that could positively affect the lives of the middle class, and reign in the ruling 1% in the banking and equity market sectors, who caused so many in the middle class to loose as much as 40% of their net worth in the last four years.

      I think JB is right to the extent that the composition of the Supreme Court has changed so significantly conservative that the next couple of appointments are critical, and the sitting President who makes those appointments is very important. Will Obama, if re-elected feel empowered enough to lead a move a little more to the left than this present term? On the SC we need it at this time, or the 1% (allied with the uber-dumb in the tea party who are too stupid to figure out what this really means) will have even greater power, and the rest of us much less.

      1. DLB Avatar

        Most of that 40% net worth you’re talking about was never real in the first place, it was just home equity that had built up for several years prior to the collapse. The only cases where it was a true crumbling of net worth were those in the middle class who lost their jobs and were unable to find work, or who had taken out loans during the boom years and used assets to pay those loans down, or had taken HELOCS/2nd mortgages during the boom and had offsetting assets.

        1. DLB Avatar

          In terms of retirement, most of that gain during the early-mid 2000’s was never real either. If you look at the Dow in 2000 compared to 2012, it’s actually up 10 or 20%

          1. JB Avatar


            The difference is that the lower and middle class have much less of their total assets in stock–their net worth is tied (to a much greater extent) to their home. So, yes the DOW is up, which means the people who have enough expendable money to invest in stocks (the upper and upper middle class) have a bit more, but those whose wealth was tied up in their homes have lost their shirts. Or to simplify: the rich got richer and the poor and middle class got poorer.

          2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan


            I think you are right. This wealth was speculative — not locked in.

            However, it did create was is called “the wealth effect” on spending. People who think they have made a lot of money are more likely to spend and keep the economy healthy.

            Now we have a poverty effect and both individuals and businesses are loath to spend and the banks are often sitting on piles of money that could be used to make productive loans that would get the economy going again.

            Meanwhile the governments spend less and less in what amount to a continuous “anti-stimulus” program.

            1. WM Avatar


              While we ponder actual lost wealth or a just perception of it, let me translate to what may be real for baby boomers getting ready to retire, or who have voluntarily retired or been forced from the job market.

              Retirement income is typically grounded in a three legged stool of asset and income stream strategy. Savings (which often includes equity in a home, stocks which may include investments through a 401K), social security and if one is lucky, a pension (which may be either defined contribution or defined benefit, and maybe has a cost of living adjustment. Mostly its government workers and those who work for bigger businesses that have pensions, and even those are being cut back in the private sector).

              The leg which either grows or shortens most over time is savings. If the value of these savings assets goes down significantly, but eventually recovers in say five years, you have still LOST because of the time value of the asset loss over those same five years, that was not allowed to grow, even to keep up with inflation. Most retirement strategy calculators conservatively estimate growth at 5%, so you are behind another 25-30 percent on what you should have had.

              Many boomers, who planned retirement have come up short, and having left the job market, voluntarily or not, have little opportunity to re-enter it. And they will never recover what has been lost, and even if they broke even, have little opportunity to recover enough to keep up with inflation going forward, with CD rates and mutual funds returning below 1% (which is then of course taxed).

              This loss of wealth and net worth is very, very real, even for those able to hang on to their homes, if they have one.

              The sad thing is that some of this was preventable but for the greed of Wall St., the belief of the likes of Barney Frank and other Congressional types that everybody should own a home, and the unjustified optimism of the American public (and failure of the SEC to regulate) that the party could continue on for a long time without a “reset.” The guys on Wall St. or sit on the Fed banking boards are paid to see around corners, and Congress is supposed be a watchdog as well.

          3. mikarooni Avatar

            “If you look at the Dow in 2000 compared to 2012, it’s actually up 10 or 20%”

            Even at only 3% inflation, the indices should all be up at least 40 to 50% over those twelve years just to be at break even and, although some prices have not seen a steady 3%, 3% is pretty minimal overall. Anything less than perhaps 3% and you might as well keep it under your mattress.

            1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
              Ralph Maughan


              Please email me.

  3. Holly Harris Avatar
    Holly Harris

    Ralph, should the date above be June 27, 2012 Good news, for now.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Yes, thanks. I fixed it.