Forest Service Agrees To Stop Sheep Grazing Near Bighorns In Eastern Idaho

Jul 3, 2018

Environmentalists worry Bighorn sheep will become infected with pneumonia if domestic sheep are allowed to graze nearby.
Credit Travis S. / Flickr

The U.S. Forest Service has settled a lawsuit from environmental groups to prevent domestic sheep from grazing in areas inhabited by native Bighorns.

For years, the Forest Service has issued grazing permits to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho. The permits allowed the Department to graze about 2,000 sheep in forests along the southern edge of the Beaverhead mountains.

Last year, two environmental groups took the Forest Service to court. Lawyers from Wildearth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project argued that sheep grazing poses a threat to native Bighorn sheep because domestic sheep can infect the wild animals with pneumonia. That means the permits violate the Forest Service’s mandate—to maintain and protect native species.

In November, a judge agreed with the environmentalists, granting a preliminary injunction on grazing permits. And last week, Forest Service officials agreed to settle out of court. Domestic sheep will not be allowed to graze until a scientific study of disease risks is completed.

Laurie Rule, an attorney for the environmentalists, calls the settlement “a significant step forward for bighorn sheep.”

About 36 bighorns live in the grazing allotment areas.

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