Idaho Gov. Candidate Allred: “On public lands, to me, wildlife populations have to take priority”

Public land ranchers concerned about candidate’s position that public lands ought be managed to preserve Idaho’s wildlife heritage

Idaho’s Gubernatorial candidate Keith Allred, challenger to “Butch” Otter, recently drew a distinction between wildlife management on public versus private land, standing behind Idaho sportsmen on the bighorn sheep issue :

Candidate’s Comments Cause for Concern – Frank Priestley, Idaho Farm Bureau President

During the October 9th discussion between Allred and members of the Idaho Sportsmen’s Caucus Advisory Council, the subject of bighorn sheep management came up. Following are Allred’s comments verbatim:

“My family a hundred years ago was driving sheep and cattle up to the Sawtooth Valley and running sheep. So I’d like to see a viable sheep industry. But we also have a long enough family history that we remember when there (were) much more substantial bighorn sheep populations in Idaho than there are now. So how do you manage those competing perspectives? Here’s one kind of distinction I would draw: On public lands, to me, wildlife populations have to take priority over individual private interests, really economic interests, and grazing. On private lands then private property owners need to take priority.”

(Emphasis added)

This recognition that wildlife management on public lands ought reflect all Idahoans’ interest, and ought preserve Idaho’s wildlife heritage is threatening to some.

To most, it’s just plain common sense.

UPDATE:  Allred Licks the Boot 10/29/10 : Statement on Bighorn and Domestic Sheep – Keith Allred, Ag Weekly

From Keith Allred – I’m sorry to have inappropriately applied the distinction between public and private land to bighorn and domestic sheep questions in recent comments I made to the Sportsman’s Caucus. I’d like to clarify my points and suggest a solution.

[More…]


National Coverage of Bighorn Sheep Disease Issues

Western Watersheds Project’s litigation and recent scientific studies changing the playing field.

Bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon of Idaho © Ken Cole

Bighorn sheep in the Salmon River Canyon of Idaho © Ken Cole

Across the West domestic sheep operations threaten the viability of bighorn sheep populations and have caused serious declines because of the diseases they carry. Last winter there were ten populations that suffered from pneumonia outbreaks and many more are suffering the lingering effects of previous outbreaks which reduces lamb survival to very low levels for many years after the initial outbreak.

In Hell’s Canyon bighorn sheep are only a small fraction of the estimated 10,000 capacity. These sheep have faced a declining population because the lamb survival is too low to replace the adults that die of other causes. The Salmon River Canyon and Central Idaho herds have faced many of these same issues but they are the last remaining native bighorn in the state.

Western Watersheds Project has been working very hard to get the US Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to develop scientifically based policies which would effectively keep bighorn sheep from ever coming into contact with domestic sheep. Unfortunately political interference by the woolgrowers and politicians has prevented the agencies from tackling this issue head on. Recently, though, the Payette National Forest decided to close about 70% of the sheep grazing area due to concerns of disease. This is one of the first cracks in the armor of the oligarchical system which holds great political sway but provides little, if any, economic benefit to the public for the subsidies it provides.

The Payette Bighorn Sheep Viability Decision has been appealed by Western Watersheds Project; the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife; the State of Washington, Department of Fish & Wildlife; the Nez Perce Tribe with other groups; and the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation primarily because it implements the decision gradually over a period of three years rather making the closures all at once. The Idaho Woolgrowers Association et. al.; Soulen Livestock Company; Frank Shirts Jr., Shirts Brothers Sheep, & Ronald and Leslie Shirts have all appealed the decision because it threatens their interests. One glaring absence is the Idaho Department of Fish and Game who recently issued a Draft Bighorn Sheep Management Plan which essentially maintains the status quo because it feels it has no power to influence the decisions of the Federal land management agencies. This would be an incorrect assumption if it weren’t for the political interference of the small but politically powerful group of woolgrowers on the legislature.

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Posted in Bighorn sheep, disease, domestic sheep, public lands. Tags: , , . Comments Off on National Coverage of Bighorn Sheep Disease Issues

New Study Comfirms that Bighorn Sheep Die from Domestic Sheep Diseases

Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

A new study in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases confirms, unequivocally, that the domestic sheep disease Mannheimia haemolytica kills bighorn sheep after the two species co-mingle. This paper has been rumored for the last several months and was cited in the recent Payette National Forest decision to close 60% of sheep grazing allotments on the Forest.

Surely this should end the discussion among reasonable people about whether science supports the notion that domestic sheep and bighorn sheep can co-exsist. They cannot and actions must be taken by Federal and State agencies to make sure that the two species do not overlap on the landscape.

ABSTRACT:   Previous studies demonstrated that bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) died of pneumonia when commingled with domestic sheep (Ovis aries) but did not conclusively prove that the responsible pathogens were transmitted from domestic to bighorn sheep. The objective of this study was to determine, unambiguously, whether Mannheimia haemolytica can be transmitted from domestic to bighorn sheep when they commingle. Four isolates of M. haemolytica were obtained from the pharynx of two of four domestic sheep and tagged with a plasmid carrying the genes for green fluorescent protein (GFP) and ampicillin resistance (APR). Four domestic sheep, colonized with the tagged bacteria, were kept about 10 m apart from four bighorn sheep for 1 mo with no clinical signs of pneumonia observed in the bighorn sheep during that period. The domestic and bighorn sheep were then allowed to have fence-line contact for 2 mo. During that period, three bighorn sheep acquired the tagged bacteria from the domestic sheep. At the end of the 2 mo of fence-line contact, the animals were allowed to commingle. All four bighorn sheep died 2 days to 9 days following commingling. The lungs from all four bighorn sheep showed gross and histopathologic lesions characteristic of M. haemolytica pneumonia. Tagged M. haemolytica were isolated from all four bighorn sheep, as confirmed by growth in ampicillin-containing culture medium, PCR-amplification of genes encoding GFP and ApR, and immunofluorescent staining of GFP. These results unequivocally demonstrate transmission of M. haemolytica from domestic to bighorn sheep, resulting in pneumonia and death of bighorn sheep.

via TRANSMISSION OF MANNHEIMIA HAEMOLYTICA FROM DOMESTIC SHEEP (OVIS ARIES) TO BIGHORN SHEEP (OVIS CANADENSIS): UNEQUIVOCAL DEMONSTRATION WITH GREEN FLUORESCENT PROTEIN-TAGGED ORGANISMS — Lawrence et al. 46 (3): 706 — Journal of Wildlife Diseases.

Reminder: Comments Due on IDFG’s Bighorn Sheep Plan Tomorrow

I posted this at the end of August. It’s time to get your comments in.

Don’t color outside the lines

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has released its Draft Bighorn Sheep Management Plan which essentially draws lines around existing bighorn sheep populations and prevents recovery to historical habitat. This is a big problem because the bighorn population has been in steep decline due to diseases spread by domestic sheep.

A population that recovered from over hunting and disease in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s started to increase after hunting regulations and reintroductions took place but the recovery was short lived and now the native and reintroduced populations have suffered from repeated contact with diseased domestic sheep and goats. The population numbered around 5000 in the 1990’s but is now about 2900 and continuing to decline.

Two areas, the Pioneer Mountains west of Mackay, and the Palisades east of Idaho Falls, are areas where dispersing sheep are commonly seen. Under this plan these areas have been essentially written off due to the presence of Federal sheep grazing allotments. Another area that isn’t included as a priority area for sheep recovery is the Sawtooths and the Boise and Payette drainages. These areas contain very suitable habitat yet there are domestic sheep allotments there as well.

The Management Plan is not likely to curb the declines in bighorn sheep populations and the IDFG is afraid to advocate for bighorn sheep conservation. They hold the power to really make the Federal agencies pay attention and close sheep grazing allotments but the IDFG is a captured agency that depends on the good graces of the livestock industry dominated legislature.

Comment on the Bighorn Sheep Management Plan.

The Comment Period Ends September 30, 2010.
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Comment on IDFG’s Bighorn Sheep Management Plan

Don’t color outside the lines

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has released its Draft Bighorn Sheep Management Plan which essentially draws lines around existing bighorn sheep populations and prevents recovery to historical habitat. This is a big problem because the bighorn population has been in steep decline due to diseases spread by domestic sheep.

A population that recovered from over hunting and disease in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s started to increase after hunting regulations and reintroductions took place but the recovery was short lived and now the native and reintroduced populations have suffered from repeated contact with diseased domestic sheep and goats. The population numbered around 5000 in the 1990’s but is now about 2900 and continuing to decline.

Two areas, the Pioneer Mountains west of Mackay, and the Palisades east of Idaho Falls, are areas where dispersing sheep are commonly seen. Under this plan these areas have been essentially written off due to the presence of Federal sheep grazing allotments. Another area that isn’t included as a priority area for sheep recovery is the Sawtooths and the Boise and Payette drainages. These areas contain very suitable habitat yet there are domestic sheep allotments there as well.

The Management Plan is not likely to curb the declines in bighorn sheep populations and the IDFG is afraid to advocate for bighorn sheep conservation. They hold the power to really make the Federal agencies pay attention and close sheep grazing allotments but the IDFG is a captured agency that depends on the good graces of the livestock industry dominated legislature.

Comment on the Bighorn Sheep Management Plan.

The Comment Period Ends September 30, 2010.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Bighorn sheep, domestic sheep, Idaho, politics, wildlife disease. Tags: , , , , . Comments Off on Comment on IDFG’s Bighorn Sheep Management Plan

Another pneumonia outbreak in Montana’s bighorn sheep

Herd lives close to site of previous die-offs

Bighorn Sheep lambs © Ken Cole

Bighorn Sheep lambs © Ken Cole

After last winter’s disastrous die-off of bighorn sheep in Montana, Utah, Nevada, and Washington State it seemed the news couldn’t get any worse for bighorn sheep. Well, today comes news of another outbreak of pneumonia in a heard of 100 bighorn sheep east of Hamilton, Montana. Officials have shot 8 of the sheep and have found at least 5 were suffering from pneumonia.

Pneumonia found in 5 bighorn sheep near Hamilton.
KULR-8 News

More Pneumonia Discovered in Montana’s Bighorn Sheep Population
New West

Payette National Forest Bighorn Sheep Decision Imminent

The Payette National Forest will be releasing its Record of Decision on July 30th

Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

Hells Canyon Bighorn Sheep © Ken Cole

After several years of litigation, the decision on how to manage domestic sheep on the Payette National Forest to maintain viability of bighorn sheep populations will be released on July 30. Several options were considered but few actually meet the so called “purpose and need” of the decision. Regardless of the decision, litigation will likely follow as there is a lot at stake.

Bighorn sheep, which have struggled with disease outbreaks caused by contact with domestic sheep, in Hells Canyon and the Salmon River Canyon will be affected by the decision. There are estimated to be approximately 1,000 California Bighorn Sheep and 1,800 Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep in Idaho and only 700 of those are native Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep which live in central Idaho. This is approximately half of the population that existed in the late 90’s and trends indicate further declines.

Of greatest concern to the bighorn populations in Idaho is contact with domestic sheep and the fatal diseases which they carry. The limiting factor in the populations continues to be pneumonia and not weather, habitat, or predation. If the adult bighorn sheep are not dying outright from disease through contact with domestic sheep then their lambs are dying within weeks of being born thus, the bighorn are not replacing themselves at a rate fast enough to keep up with other mortality factors and are continuing to decline in population. For years after an outbreak lamb survival is the limiting factor.

From an email sent today by Forest Supervisor, Suzanne Rainville:

“The Record of Decision for the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement and Forest Plan Amendment Identifying Suitable Rangeland for Domestic Sheep and Goat Grazing to Maintain Habitat for Viable Bighorn Sheep Populations will be available to the public July 30 when it will be posted in the Federal Register. We plan to have documents available on the Forest website by July 27. I will be hosting a briefing of my decision on July 28 at the Boise National Forest Supervisor’s office at 10:00 AM in the Sunset and Bear Valley Conference Rooms. The address is 1249 S. Vinnell Way, Suite 200 (second floor above Social Security).”