Secretary of Interior responds to Congress on bighorn sheep issues
October 17, 2014
This week, Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell responded to concerns and questions submitted by leading members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate regarding plans for managing bighorn sheep and the impact on the American sheep industry.
In her letter to the 37 signators of the bi-cameral, bi-partisan letter of June 30, Jewell responded "The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) does not have to manage for zero risk to bighorn sheep from domestic sheep grazing, and the 2012 Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies recommendations recognize that zero risk is "impossible" to achieve. The BLM's draft policy will provide guidance to BLM field offices to analyze and assess risk on a case-by-case basis, and to make informed decisions that minimize risk between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep and goat grazing, so that BLM can assist state and federal wildlife managers in their efforts to sustain bighorn sheep populations."
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Vilsack has yet to respond to the joint letter of Congress regarding the U.S. Forest Service's plans, however, he has replied to a joint letter on the topic sent by the Governors of Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. Vilsack stated that "grazing remains an appropriate and important use of National Forest System lands. The Forest Service understands the importance of balancing multiple use demands with management practices to support viable populations of bighorn sheep and a healthy domestic sheep industry.
"The Forest Service has instructed its line officers that best management practices to maintain separation need to be applied to the extent they are effective in supporting both uses. When a line officer determines that the potential risk for contact, as identified through the assessment process, is at an unacceptable level, the officer needs to identify and analyze potential replacement allotments when developing management alternatives."
–American Sheep Industry