Conservation Groups Win Reprieve from Sheep Grazing on Government Lands

Boise, IDAHO – Conservation groups voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit against high-elevation domestic sheep grazing in the “Summer West Range of Centennial Mountains because the government has agreed not to graze again until it completes a full environmental review of the potential impacts of the activity. It has previously committed not to grazing in Summer East Range or on an adjacent Forest Service allotment.  
The controversial grazing occurred on the old U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, a Department of Agriculture property including public and private lands along the border of Idaho and Montana. Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians, Gallatin Wildlife Association and Cottonwood Environmental Law Center have opposed the government domestic sheep operations because these high elevation lands are also important habitat for native wildlife including grizzlies, wolves, and bighorn sheep.
“We were happy to dismiss our lawsuit against the grazing, so long as the grazing stops,” said Ken Cole, Idaho Director of Western Watersheds Project. “The government has promised not to resume grazing on this sensitive area until it completes an environmental analysis of doing so, and this closure adds considerable protected acreage to Sheep Station lands already being rested from grazing.”
“Of course, we’re hoping this is more than a temporary closure. The Sheep Station has been problematic for a variety of reasons, from ecological to economic,” said Bryan Bird, Wild Places Program Director of WildEarth Guardians. “The environmental analysis should reveal that the balance of harms tips strongly in favor of protecting this area for native wildlife, and the long-term decision will become clear.”
The Summer West Range has a history of bad outcomes for native predators, including the illegal and unsolved killing of Grizzly #726, whose cut telemetry collar was found in the vicinity of a domestic sheep camp in 2012. Black bears, coyotes, foxes, and entire packs of wolves have been killed in order to protect Sheep Station livestock, a profoundly disturbing outcome of government grazing ‘experiment.’” 

The Secretary of Agriculture has also recommended closing the antiquated government Sheep Station for financial reasons. Glenn Hockett with the Gallatin Wildlife Association says, “It just doesn’t pay to keep this station open. Perpetuating domestic sheep use of the Centennial Mountains is neither economically or ecologically sustainable. We hope this is a step in the right direction to re-wild the Centennial Mountains.” 

Western Watersheds Project is a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of western watersheds and wildlife. 

WildEarth Guardians protects and restores the wildlife, wild places, wild rivers, and health of the American West.

Gallatin Wildlife Association has a mission of restoration, maintenance, and perpetuation of native fish, wildlife, and their habitat. 

Cottonwood Environmental Law Center is a nonprofit public interest law firm. For more information, contact


  1. alf Avatar

    So, do I assume correctly that the environmental community’s “voluntary dismissal” of its lawsuit does NOT preclude it from reinstituting it if the “full environmental review” (EIS?) is cooked to claim that there are “no significant impacts” and grazing can resume ?

    1. Ken Cole Avatar

      Yes, we have not been precluded from challenging any future NEPA analysis.

  2. Patty Shenker Avatar
    Patty Shenker

    This is a good start for our precious and endangered wildlife. Let’s go even further and end all ranching subsidies of public lands.It’s killing our wildlife which we need for a healthy environment! After all, it’s become obvious that the ranchers are criminals who don’t pay their taxes for the use of these lands and they do illegal activities like the stand-off in Oregon. Keep our public lands thriving & free of ranching interests!


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