Judge holds Forest Service in contempt for using flawed data to ban sheep
On Feb. 23, Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho held the Secretary of Agriculture and Chief of the United States Forest Service in contempt of court for relying on two illegal reports on disease transmission from livestock to bighorn sheep. The reports were used in the Shoshone National Forest’s recent Land Management Plan revision to ban domestic sheep and goats from the Shoshone. The motion for contempt was filed by the Idaho Wool Growers Association and the North American Packgoat Association.
Winmill ruled that the forest service disregarded his 2009 court orders stating that the Payette National Forest reports on risk analysis of disease transmission between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep “are not to be used in any future agency decisions” and held unlawful. He found that a 2012 Shoshone report on bighorn and domestic sheep and goats copied parts of the Payette report, which had been found unlawful because of a lack of public involvement.
“In fact, when the two reports are viewed alongside each other,” Winmill wrote in his ruling, “it becomes apparent that the author of the Shoshone report used the 2006 Payette report as a template, liberally copying text from the Payette report into his report.”
A lengthy sampling from the literature review sections of the two reports was included in Winmill’s order. The text is verbatim, except that “and goats” was added to references of domestic sheep in the Shoshone report.
The court’s decision and order are a significant win for the Wool Growers and NAPgA in their respective fights to ensure that the forest service properly involves the public in its decision-making and that it makes transparent, unbiased and science-based decisions in managing livestock and recreation uses in national forests. The forest service has been ordered to compensate the Wool Growers and NAPgA for the attorneys’ fees they incurred in upholding the law.
It has been reported that forest service officials say their attorneys are reviewing the order.
A document recounting detailed background on the court’s decision and the cases leading up to it is available on the American Sheep Industry Association website at http://www.sheepusa.org/IssuesPrograms_Issues_Bighorn.
–American Sheep Industry
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