Is SB1175 a way to stall so that “research” can be done?
More bighorn ‘the Earth is flat’ madness :
Otter must decide bighorn issue by Saturday – Rocky Barker – Letters from the West, Idaho Statesman
What he and other sheep ranchers really want is more research to determine not only if disease is spread from domestic sheep to wild sheep, which they dispute, but also how the bighorn are dying and if there are ways of stopping the deaths and allowing the bighorns to thrive and grow without forcing the ranchers off of federal lands. They see the bill as giving them time, though an opinion presented by the Idaho Attorney General’s office suggested the bill won’t change the state’s legal position.
Unfortunately, the post does little more than push sheepman talking points, failing to mention that there is very little controversy about the spread of disease from domestic sheep to wild sheep – and the subsequent death of bighorns – in the scientific community, or that the single pumped up (thanks to articles like this) voice of controversy that does exist comes from the President of the Woolgrowers Association. So we’ll fill in a few of the gaps.
1. The Science
Let’s face it, domestic sheep diseases KILL bighorn sheep. You can read about this here:
You may also read the abstract for an article in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases:
George, J.L.; Martin, D.J.; Lukacs, P.M.; Miller, M.W. In press. Epidemic Pasteurellosis in a bighorn sheep population coinciding with the appearance of a domestic sheep.
You can also see a video segment on the issue here: Oregon Field Guide: Bighorn Pneumonia
And many more …
2. The Source(s)
I was told by Stan Boyd, lobbyist for the Idaho Woolgrowers, that his group has approached Senator Crapo for $900,000 to fund 3 years of Washington State University and University of Idaho research into what is killing bighorn sheep. The problem is that one of the primary scientists who does research at the University of Idaho, Caine Veterinary Teaching Center, in Caldwell is the President the Idaho Woolgrowers Association. Marie Bulgin has repeatedly testified that there is no evidence that domestic sheep diseases kill bighorn sheep in the wild. There is significant disagreement with this assertion as can be seen in this “Letter from David A. Jessup, CA Dept. of Fish and Game to Pattie Souchek, Forest Planner, Payette National Forest re Disease Transmission Between Domestic and Bighorn Sheep (July 31, 2006)”
The money has not been appropriated yet, but if it is, will any of it go to the University of Idaho, Caine Veterinary Teaching Center under the supervision of Marie Bulgin?
Another question that comes to mind, couldn’t that $900,000 be better spent on keeping the woolgrowers who will be affected by changes in USFS policy whole? It’s not as if they don’t receive subsidization as it is.
3. Follow the Money
Here are subsidies received by wool growers affected by the likely changes on the Payette National Forest:
Soulen Livestock Co received payments totaling $1,010,401 from 1995 through 2006
Ron Shirts received payments totaling $214,707 from 1995 through 2006
Frank Shirts Jr received payments totaling $775,817 from 1995 through 2006
Guy M Carlson received payments totaling $110,307 from 1995 through 2006
Also, I am sure groups such as Western Watersheds Project would be willing to “collaborate” so long as the best science and research describing how bighorn sheep are dying is utilized and fundamentally informs whatever product a “collaborative” might come up with. There is plenty of evidence showing how domestic sheep herding on public lands impacts the habitat and health of bighorn sheep – it should not be abandoned nor the waters “muddied” by tax-payer subsidized industry sponsored science – remember how well the tobacco or oil industry scientists serve the public interest ? – it is no different here.
In the meantime bighorn sheep will continue to die if nothing is done to remove domestic sheep from allotments where they may intermingle with bighorn sheep. Also, there has been little discussion about domestic sheep that remain unaccounted for at the end of the grazing season. There have been instances where domestic sheep that have been separated from the larger herd have been left to fend for themselves in places like Hells Canyon. As you can see from these exchanges, between the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the US Forest Service, there have been domestic sheep found wandering unsupervised in Hells Canyon – bighorn habitat.
Even if transmission of disease from domestic sheep to bighorn sheep requires direct contact between the two, there is ample opportunity for this to occur when domestic sheep are left to wander in bighorn sheep habitat.
Rocky’s reporting in this article seems irresponsible in that he repeats talking points of the sheep industry without any investigation into their claims. We need better investigated information for policy makers and the public. The claims of the sheep industry have been soundly repudiated by scientists, land and wildlife managers, and judges.