The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has nearly completed its requirement to develop “Best Management Practices” (BMPs) pursuant to Idaho legislation S1232. Public land sheep ranchers hope that the BMPs will be sufficient to dissuade the Payette National Forest from shutting down domestic sheep ranching on the Payette Forest, a move necessary to protect bighorn sheep from deadly disease.
Idaho meets deadline for bighorn plans – mostly ~ Rocky Barker, Idaho Statesman
A lawsuit by bighorn advocates forced officials at the Payette National Forest to start a process to decide whether to keep allowing ranchers to graze their sheep in bighorn habitat.
That sparked a response from the Idaho Legislature, which passed a law that says a wild sheep that had come too close to a domestic herd had to be either relocated or killed. It also required Fish and Game Director Cal Groen to certify these separation plans by Aug. 5.
The BMPs won’t work. The Payette’s own science demonstrates that to ensure “viability” of bighorn sheep, the Forest needs to ensure that fewer than 1 (that’s less than one !) bighorn/domestic sheep interaction can take place per year. These BMPs can’t ensure that. Additionally, the Statesman article notes that the very two ranchers this legislation passed to protect are holding out, refusing to agree to IDFG’s proposed BMPs forcing the Department to lapse on its deadline.
A Politicized Game Department
S1232 is a bill signed into law under intense pressure from Idaho sheep ranching interests and under false pretenses. Domestic sheep rancher and state senator Jeff Siddoway pushed the bill using testimony from Dr. Marie Bulgin, currently under investigation for conflict of interest, who claimed that there was no evidence of transmission of disease from domestic sheep to wild sheep, that claim is bogus.
You may remember, S1232 prompted an exodus of bighorn advocates from the Governornor’s Bighorn/Domestic Sheep Working Group, all bighorn advocates have ‘left the table’ with one notable exception remaining: Western Watersheds Project. It remains to be seen whether Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter is committed to continuing the collaborative decision-making process he established, or whether the group will remain suspended indefinitely.
Interestingly, shortly after the Wild Sheep Foundation (formerly FNAWS) announced it was pulling out of the working group, IDFG announced it was awarding its prized Bighorn sheep auction tag to Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife (sic), a group sympathetic to public land livestock grazing that has remained conspicuously silent on the bighorn controversy, effectively pulling the tag from the Sheep Foundation who had previously been awarded the tag every year prior given their work to make the tag available.