The Nez Perce Tribe issued a news release today expressing concern that in the upcoming grazing season there was a high probably of domestic sheep mixing with bighorn in Hells Canyon where restoration of bighorn herds has gone slowly. The Payette National Forest has promised to solve the problem (because the FS Chief upheld an appeal of their Forest Plan back in 2004), but with the near onset of grazing, it looks to be like they are doing nothing.
When domestic sheep mix with bighorn, the bighorn die of domestic sheep diseases very quickly. It cannot be tolerated.
The Tribe’s news release follows. It is very low key and respectfully written. I’m used to seeing “get your rear in gear, slackers, or we’ll see you court right away.” I hope the tone of the Tribe doesn’t lead the Forest Service and the livestock politicians not to take this seriously.
NPT Press Release
March 29, 2007
Nez Perce Tribe Provides Management Recommendations to the Forest Service Concerning Bighorn Sheep Restoration and Domestic Sheep Management
Lapwai, ID – The Nez Perce Tribe is awaiting a response from the Payette National Forest concerning this year’s management of domestic sheep grazing on the forest, which poses a threat to the continued viability of Idaho’s iconic bighorn sheep populations in and around bighorn sheep populations in Hells Canyon and along the Salmon River. The Tribe developed recommendations calling for separation of domestic and bighorn sheep in this year’s grazing operations on the forest in order to reduce the risk of mortality to already depressed bighorn sheep populations. “There is a demonstrated correlation between large-scale bighorn die-offs and the presence of domestic sheep,” says Aaron Miles Sr., Natural Resource Manager for the Tribe, “in order to protect the bighorns, and hopefully recover them to harvestable levels, we need to keep these species separate.” concluded Mr. Miles.
This will be the third grazing season since the Chief of the Forest Service upheld an appeal of the Payette Forest Plan by the Tribe and others on the grounds that the Plan did not protect the viability of bighorn sheep because of widespread domestic sheep grazing authorized in the Plan. “The Payette National Forest has had three years to work with the permitted sheep producers to modify their grazing practices in order to comply with the law and the needs of the bighorns. The bighorns cannot stand another year of die-off’s” says Brooklyn Baptiste, Chairman of the Tribal Executive Committee’s Natural Resources Subcommittee. “The data I have seen are clear. Bighorn and domestic sheep are mixing and bighorns are dying. It is not enough to argue there is no need for separation of the species because most of the bighorns have already died; we need to insure long-term bighorn viability” Mr. Baptiste continued.
This fall, the Nez Perce Tribe initiated a collaborative effort to find workable solutions among stakeholders including the U. S. Forest Service, state fish and game agencies, domestic sheep producers, and conservation groups. “Our goal is bighorn restoration and we feel the best way to accomplish that is to maintain separation” says Keith Lawrence, Nez Perce Tribe Wildlife Management Division Director. “We understand this means change in the way domestic sheep are grazed on the forest and poses hardships for the producers. Our hope is to find solutions that insure separation and minimize impacts to domestic sheep operations. The best way to do that is for all stakeholders to work together,” continued Mr. Lawrence.
“The future of bighorns in central Idaho hangs in the balance, I hope that the Forest Service will be prudent and separate the two species so that the bighorns my people have used for thousands of years can be restored to their rightful place in the canyon country” says Rebecca Miles, Chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. The Payette Forest will make a decision concerning this year’s domestic sheep grazing within the next week or two, and will make a long-term management decision this summer.
Included is a packet containing background and contact numbers for people involved in this issue.