Letters seeking signatures are circulating in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives regarding efforts by the Forest Service (FS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove domestic sheep from federal grazing allotments. The letters are addressed to Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
Half of all domestic sheep in the United States graze on federal lands at least part of the time. The FS and BLM are systematically removing domestic sheep from grazing allotments in the name of bighorn sheep management despite the fact there are reasonable solutions to accommodate sheep ranches. In Idaho, the FS removed 70% of domestic sheep from the Payette National Forest and one ranch is now out of business and two others reduced their sheep numbers drastically. Only 10% of FS allotments and 3% of BLM allotments are actually within occupied bighorn habitat however recent documents indicate the agencies are expanding the Payette analogy beyond that occupied territory to vast additional areas through the West. Such expansion of removing sheep grazing would impact fully 23% of the nation’s sheep production and therefore jeopardize lamb and wool companies used by all sheep producers.
“Congressional direction on this issue is critical and timely,” said Peter Orwick, executive director of the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI). “It has been announced that forests in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho will make determinations on grazing and bighorn viability by February 2015. The letters provide you a key opportunity to directly involve Representative and Senators to address this threat.”