Your Comments Are Needed by March 3, 2009!
Wild bighorn sheep are native to North America, and once numbered in the millions. But their numbers have drastically declined to just a few thousand. The biggest threat wild bighorns face is disease from domestic sheep.
Most experts agree that when wild and domestic sheep come into contact while grazing on the public lands, the wild sheep get sick and often die. What’s killing bighorns, they say, is a pathogen that is carried by domestic sheep. Bighorns with this pathogen can die or transmit a pneumonia-like disease to other bighorns. Lambs are especially vulnerable. Expert biologists and wildlife agencies recommend separating bighorn sheep from domestic sheep to minimize disease risk to the wild sheep.
Faced with declining Rocky Mountain Bighorn populations in Hells Canyon and the Salmon River regions of Idaho, the Payette National Forest is taking public comment on how to protect bighorn sheep from domestic sheep. Four ranchers have commercial grazing permits for about 20,000 head of domestic sheep on nearly 500,000 acres of public land in the Payette. To protect bighorn sheep, the Payette has proposed cutting nearly 60% of the public acres grazed by domestic sheep (called Alternative 7G).
You can read the Payette’s information and proposal at http://www.fs.fed.us/r4/payette/publications/big_horn/big_horn_sheep_documents_index.shtml
The Payette’s recommendation still leaves considerable risk of disease to bighorn populations. The best protection for wild sheep is Alternative 7E, which closes all domestic sheep grazing allotments on the Payette. Please send your comments to the Payette National Forest asking for Alternative 7E to be selected to give our wild sheep their best (and maybe last) chance to survive in the wild.
Please e-mail your comments to the U.S. Forest Service at firstname.lastname@example.org by March 3, 2009! A sample letter is below, but please add your own thoughts or experiences about wild bighorn sheep:
Re: Bighorn Sheep Comments
I am writing to ask that you provide the maximum protection for wild bighorn sheep on the Payette National Forest. Please choose Alternative 7E, which best protects bighorn sheep from the disease risk from domestic sheep. Alternative 7E closes all domestic sheep allotments in the Payette, and thus eliminates the most risk of contact and disease transmission between domestic and wild sheep.
I understand from your analysis that less than one contact per year between bighorns and domestic sheep is recommended by experts to avoid disease being transmitted and decimating bighorn lambs and herds.
There are only 4 domestic sheep permittees who still graze sheep on the Payette, but they affect about half a million acres, much of it in historic bighorn habitat. These domestic sheep operations are taxpayer-subsidized, and limited in their contributions to the area’s economy. There are many people who enjoy watching bighorn sheep in Hells Canyon and the Main Salmon who can add millions to the local economy. Hunting bighorn sheep also generates significant revenues. The majestic wild sheep in Idaho are an irreplaceable resource for generations to come. Please provide the maximum protection to wild bighorn sheep, and close all domestic sheep allotments located on the Payette National Forest.
Sincerely, [your name and address]