Rocky Barker blogs about the bighorn sheep issue in Idaho.
Payette Forest bighorn sheep decision expected out soon – Letters from the West
But the ranchers who still run sheep are a hardy and dedicated bunch. They don’t want to give up a long family tradition. In fact, they want to pass it down to their kids.
It sounds nice, and of course this narrative of “family rancher” remains the party-line in Western states – incessantly chimed at agency meetings, hearings, other official gatherings, among politicians and echoed with implicit tones of admiration in regional (and especially local) media outlets. But when one digs deeper we find a much different “family tradition” involved in the business of running sheep on federal public lands in Idaho (and other western states). Avid outdoors-folk see it. The sheepman affected by the Payette Forest’s draft environmental impact statement run their business hiring others, in large part immigrants who are exploited by way of pay woefully below minimum wage ~ at the very least.
And the bighorn…
Fewer than 17 sheepman have enough sheep to speak of, let alone be significantly affected by the protection of bighorn sheep on federal grazing allotments in the state of Idaho – the number of sheepman holding allotments actually in conflict with bighorn is fewer. Among those sheepman are the rich and politically connected in the state who were successfully represented by Idaho Woolgrower’s lobbyist Stan Boyd when he, the governor, and state reps browbeat the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) into developing policy that would heighten the priority of these few sheepman’s collection of federal subsidies ($346,887 in Idaho in 2006) for wool (using public land allotments and archaic/exploitative labor practices) over the Department’s efforts to preserve bighorn. The move exposes Idaho’s cherished bighorn to deadly disease and threatens the Department’s significant efforts (re-introductions of the past) to restore this “Monarch of the Mountain” to its rightful habitat in the state. It also makes clear the significant degree to which the IDFG has become a politicized puppet of ag interests in the state – beholden to the Idaho sheep industry’s “long family tradition“.