A ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recognizing a connection between bighorn sheep die-offs and diseases transmitted by domestic sheep could have far-reaching ramifications on federal grazing allotments in the West.
The ruling earlier this month by the three-judge panel against domestic sheep producers upheld a lower court ruling in Idaho supporting a U.S. Forest Service decision to close sheep grazing allotments to protect bighorns.
“A lot of people were looking at this waiting to see what they did,” said Laurie Rule of Advocates for the West, noting it's the first time a U.S. circuit court has ruled on disease transmission between the species.
The ruling gives the Forest Service legal backing to look at other areas in the West where domestic sheep grazing should be limited to protect bighorns, she said, or for environmental groups “to try to force the Forest Service to do it if they're not going to do it on their own.”
The Idaho Wool Growers Association and others sued in 2012, contending that the U.S. Forest Service illegally shut down 70 percent of sheep grazing in the Payette National Forest in west-central Idaho based on unproven disease transmission between domestic and bighorn sheep.
But a U.S. district court — and now a federal appeals court— disagreed.
“There's that possibility that it could be used on other forests,” said Stan Boyd, executive director of the Idaho Wool Growers Association. He said the association was considering its next move involving possible legal action.
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Source: Associated Press