October 20, 2011

Bighorn Sheep

Bighorn sheep descending a hill

In 2005 the chief of the U.S. Forest Service directed the Payette National Forest to change its 2003 plan to protect bighorn sheep viability. The species has been declining rapidly, in part due to pneumonia transmission from domestic sheep that graze in the same areas.

After years of scientific research and negotiations, as well as 26,000 comments from the public, the Forest Service in 2010 released its Record of Decision and ordered domestic sheep grazing on the Payette cut by almost 70,000 acres in order to create buffer zones between members of the domestic and wild species.

Marcia Franklin and her guests discuss that U.S. Forest Service decision and the ensuing pushback from the livestock industry.

The program is a follow-up discussion to the new OUTDOOR IDAHO documentary, "The People's Land," which examines the decisions federal land management agencies in Idaho have made to favor multiple uses.

Franklin's guests include Suzanne Rainville, retired supervisor of the Payette National Forest; Margaret Soulen Hinson, president, American Sheep Industry Association; Neil Thagard, former president, Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation; and McCoy Oatman, Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee member.

Bighorn advocates have applauded the Forest Service's decision, claiming it will help reverse plummeting populations of the species. But sheep operators say more research needs to be done on transmission factors as well as a vaccine and argue the decision sets a harmful precedent for their industry nationwide. On their behalf, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) has introduced a rider to the Department of Interior Appropriations bill that would prevent federal land management agencies nationwide from requiring livestock ranchers operating on public lands to move domestic sheep.