Sheep Experiment Station Closure Thwarted by Political Interference

Wasteful Government Grazing Program to Continue

Hailey, Idaho—Last month’s effort to end wasteful government programs at the Agricultural Research Station’s U.S. Sheep Experiment Station by closing it in the fall of 2014 has been thwarted by political interference from Idaho Representative Mike Simpson.  U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack claimed that the station had become a financial liability for the agency in a letter to Congress.  Unfortunately, that economically rational decision was reversed yesterday.

“The Sheep Station represents just one of many subsidies to the livestock industry that self-proclaimed fiscally conservative politicians irrationally support,” said Travis Bruner, Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Every cow or sheep grazing on public lands costs taxpayers 7-10 times more than it costs the ranchers, but apparently Rep. Mike Simpson also wants Americans to pay for ‘research’ on the relic research station. Enough is enough!”

Conservation organizations have been urging the closure of the sheep station for environmental reasons, mostly the conflict with grizzlies and wolves that occurs from putting sheep directly in harms way in critical and remote habitat for the predators. But the Sheep Experiment Station is also another subsidy to an industry that is already subsidized through cheap grazing fees, direct meat and wool subsidies, and predator killing. This same industry only uses the
U.S. Sheep Experiment Station research that keeps them profitable while ignoring any that would benefit wildlife or landscapes. On top of that, the research is being conducted in the worst possible area for imperiled species such as grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, lynx, and wolverines while using immigrant workers who are being put at risk defending the sheep and at risk of diseases such as Q fever.

“The proposed closure was a sensible decision, and the outcome would have been great for wildlife,” said John Meyer, Executive Director of Cottonwood Environmental Law Center and attorney on recent litigation about the station. “It is ridiculous that Congress will intervene to keep a financially insolvent research station open and let endangered species suffer rather than applaud the agency efforts to manage budgets.”

Maps available for media use.
A letter outlining WWP’s support for the closure is online here.

Western Watersheds Project works to protect and restore public lands and wildlife in the West through education, public policy initiatives and legal advocacy.

Cottonwood Environmental Law Center is a non-profit law firm and conservation organization dedicated to protecting the people, forests, water and wildlife in the West


  1. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    How does one member of the House of Representatives stop the Obama Administration from closing a federal office?

    Someone please enlighten me. I’m praying for the State of Idaho to come out of the dark ages!

    1. Jeff N. Avatar
      Jeff N.


      Maybe this will help explain this disappointing news. Hopefully it will only be a temporary.

      1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

        The photo of deceased woolgrower Pete Cennarusa and his sheep show why domestic sheep should NOT be allowed to graze on public land. The grasses and herbs have been ground to dust by the sheep’s hooves. This scene is repeated over and over where ever domestic sheep are grazed.

  2. alf Avatar

    I knew it was too good to be true !

    Mike simpleton has been in Washington WAAAAY too long. It’s time to retire him !

  3. Tracy Avatar

    A lot of people in the Sheep Station area are very upset about the projected closure. I think whatever group will throw out numbers about the cost, or about impacts on wildlife, or human workers, or immigrant workers, should substantiate their claims with facts and citations. This includes those in favor of the Sheep Station staying open. The merit and value of the Sheep Station needs to be shown. Otherwise, it is just more bloody propaganda. And that is basically what most of today’s politics is…. a waste of airspace.

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Did you bother to read the letter attached to this post? There are several references listed.

  4. Jeff Avatar

    Unfortunately this shows the problem of our federal government as a whole—there is a LOT of pork (mutton) that needs to be chopped but everyone has there sacred cow (sheep) so through the process nothing gets cut except for the pathetic 5% cuts across the board. There are hundreds of outdated, wasteful and redundant programs that must be cut for fiscal sanity to be restored and we can’t even get rid of a sheep station.

  5. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    When I worked for the BLM, there was an attempt to improve efficieny by closing a small field office and the same result was that politicians put a stop to it.

    The best thing that could happen for wildlife now is for the sheep station to not allow grazing in those allotments close to the identified corridor between Yellowstone NP and the Bitterroots. The letter from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Recovery Team requesting the sheep stations assistance should help.

  6. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    ““We must stop the liberal Obama agenda. As your Congressman, I’m fighting everyday to balance the budget, repeal Obamacare and protect our conservative Idaho values.”

    –Mike Simpson”


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