Appeals Court Affirms Forest Service Closures that Protect Bighorn from Domestic Livestock

Boise, IDAHO – The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today affirmed the Payette National Forest’s decision to close 70 percent of the domestic sheep grazing allotments on the Idaho forest, despite the self-serving protests of the sheep industry. Conservation groups intervened in the proceedings in support of the science-based restrictions meant to protect bighorn sheep from disease-carrying domestic livestock.Domestic sheep operations pose significant risks of transmitting pneumonia-causing bacteria to bighorn, a disease with catastrophic effects in the wild animals. The resulting large scale die-offs are considered the current limiting factor in bighorn sheep abundance despite efforts to reintroduce and recover bighorn in areas throughout the West.

“Today’s ruling shows that taking precautionary measures to protect native wildlife is a reasonable approach to managing our public lands,” said Ken Cole, Idaho director of Western Watersheds Project, one of the intervenors. “It also affirms that the methods used by the Payette National Forest were proper, and we hope this means more public land managers will start applying the same models when evaluating risk of contact.”

“This decision affirms the thorough scientific analysis conducted by the Payette National Forest to ensure that viable populations of bighorn sheep remain in the Hells Canyon and Salmon River Canyon Mountains of Idaho.  The woolgrowers have failed to undercut this analysis through their political and legal maneuvering,” said Laurie Rule, senior attorney with Advocates for the West who represented the conservation groups.

“Uncertainty of transmission is no excuse for inaction,” said Cole.“We can’t wait for dead bighorn to show that there was a threat. The Forest Service was right to use a predictive model and manage livestock operations accordingly.”




  1. snaildarter Avatar

    I could use some good news. I hope it sticks.

  2. Patrick Avatar

    Great news!

  3. Ida Lupines Avatar
    Ida Lupines

    This is good news!

  4. Gary Humbard Avatar
    Gary Humbard

    The more dim-witted hoofed locusts can be removed from public lands the better.

    T.R. IMO our greatest US president had a real despise for sheep and wanted all of them removed from the west’s public lands for the destruction they do. He would applaud this decision if alive today and so I do for him.

  5. Kathleen Avatar

    I agree that this is excellent news, but demonizing the domestic sheep is unfair. They have a very long history of exploitation by human beings.

    Also, they aren’t dumb.

    1. Ida Lupines Avatar
      Ida Lupines

      I know, I feel the same way. It’s not the fault of cattle or sheep, they are the victims as much as any. We don’t need any more excuses.

    2. mt Avatar

      This is a great leap in the right direction to rid all western US lands of domestic sheep – a plague on the landscape!

    3. timz Avatar

      “They have a very long history of exploitation by human beings.”

      Thus the saying, “Montana, where men are men and sheep are nervous.”

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