Bozeman, Mont. — In a letter to the delegations of both Idaho and Montana, Trout Unlimited urged the return of 16,000 acres of prime, high-country habitat to hunters and anglers by striking a compromise and opening a portion of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station up to public access.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed closing the Sheep Experiment Station as a significant cost-cutting measure. The closure was not enacted, however a proposal for full closure has been placed in USDA’s 2016 budget.
“We think there’s a middle ground here and believe in an option that could close only the high country pastures in Montana, transferring those lands to the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management with access for the American public,” said Greg McReynolds, field coordinator for Trout Unlimited's Sportsmen's Conservation Project. “That would keep the lowland pastures and research facilities in Idaho intact.“
The station has long been problematic for the USDA and the mismatch between form and function has brought in its fair share of criticism.
“These high country lands are far better suited to elk and bighorn sheep and are an important source of water for the native Westslope cutthroat trout and one of the last native populations of adfluvial Arctic grayling,” said Tom Reed, Northwest Director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “We believe this to be a far better use of these lands and by all accounts, the agency agrees. These days sportsmen are feeling the pressure of losing access to their public lands every day. But this is a rare opportunity to increase access – one we want our delegations to support.”
In their letter, Trout Unlimited requested both delegations to keep sportsmen in mind as they move forward.
“These verdant high country pastures are on a collision course between conflicting interests if they are not returned to public access for the American public and managed for conservation… We urge the delegations of Montana and Idaho to work together to return the high country headwaters—the Fountain of the Missouri River—to public access and protect these backcountry lands for future generations of American sportsmen and women.”
Source: Trout Unlimited