In 2010, the Payette National Forest made a formal decision to end sheep grazing on a number of allotments because of concerns about possible impacts of domestic sheep on wild bighorn populations. Like many Idahoans, I am concerned not only about the impact of this decision on the wool growers directly impacted by eliminating these grazing permits, but also about the larger impact that this decision could have on domestic sheep grazing throughout the National Forest System.
While they are not endangered, bighorn sheep are an important part of wildlife in the West, and the draw of bighorn sheep hunting has an important economic impact on many western communities. It is important that we find a solution to this problem that conserves bighorn populations without destroying the domestic sheep industry.
This is why I included language in the Interior section of H.R. 2055, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, FY2012, that simply freezes current management for one year and directs the Forest Service and the BLM to follow approved state management plans regarding bighorn management. While I originally included similar language in the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for FY2013, during the Full Committee's consideration of the bill, I offered an amendment which removed that language.
I got involved in this issue because I care deeply for our ranchers and for the tribes and sportsmen who work so hard on bighorn sheep conservation. I got involved to find a reasonable solution and tried to work with ranchers, hunters, and land management agencies to solve this problem. Fighting over this problem serves no purpose and does not benefit hunting or ranching. As a result, I am pulling the provision. However, I am only doing this to have all interested parties come to the table and work with me on a solution. Too often, one side or the other is satisfied with the status quo. In this case it is not acceptable—and losing part of our heritage, whether it be bighorn sheep in Idaho or ranchers in Idaho—is not an option. I intend to continue working with all sides on this issue to find solutions to this complex problem.