Sheep Men Demand Use of National Forest

     BOISE (CN) – Western sheep ranchers deny that their animals can infect wild bighorns and claim in court the U.S. Forest Service is illegally barring their herds from a National Forest.
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     The Idaho Wool Growers Association claims the Forest Service ruling is based on flawed science.
     Joining as plaintiffs are sheep ranchers in Colorado and Wyoming, the American Sheep Industry Association and the Public Lands Council.
     The sheep ranchers want to graze their herds in Payette National Forest, and challenge a 2010 Record of Decision by the Forest Service.
     “The decision was based on the theory that contact between domestic sheep and bighorns under range conditions results in the transmission of fatal pathogens from domestic sheep to bighorns 100 percent of the time,” the sheep farmers say. “The Payette’s 2010 decision was flawed with procedural defects and an inadequate record basis.”
     They also accuse the Forest Service of “failure to comply with the Federal Advisory Committee Act in establishing a bighorn sheep science committee, which committee’s report was relied upon by the Forest Service in developing the ROD [record of decision] and FSEIS [final supplemental environmental impact statement].”
     The sheep men claim the ruling reduces grazing on Payette National Forest land by more than 68,000 acres, leaving about 31,000 acres for domestic sheep grazing, reducing the sheep rangeland by roughly 70 percent.
     They claim Uncle Sam used “unsupported” modeling methods, did not obtain adequate relevant information and didn’t adequately discuss mitigation measures, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Administrative Procedures Act.
     They want the court to set aside the Record of Decision and order the Forest Service to reinstate the domestic sheep grazing allotments.
     They are represented by Murray Feldman with Holland & Hart.

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