Interaction Policies


In the 1990s and afterward, some major litigation initiated by bighorn advocates focused on bighorn-domestic sheep separation in Hells Canyon and the Payette National Forest in Idaho (Barker 2011a). Lawsuits eventually led to significant research, risk analysis, and the controversial Payette decision limiting domestic sheep grazing in the area (Barker 2011a; Pramuk 2010). However, implementation of that decision was delayed in 2012 because of the USFS’s interpretation of a Congressional rider tacked onto the annual Interior and Environment Appropriations bill in 2011 (Barker 2011b; U.S. Congress 2011; Pramuk 2012).

The Riders
In 2011, Idaho Republican House Representative Mike Simpson attached riders to the 2012 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill (Barker 2011a). One rider “would prevent Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service managers from using their funds toward any bighorn sheep management activities that would decrease domestic livestock grazing on federal lands through 2016” (Hirai 2011). Another rider “exempts domestic sheep trailing across federally managed lands from any National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review” (Barker 2011a).

Simpson introduced the bighorn management restriction riders at the request of the Idaho Wool Growers Association because he wanted to slow down enforcement of the Payette decision (Barker 2011b).

Simpson claimed the Payette decision “forced several sheep ranchers out of business” (Hirai 2011). At least two Payette area ranchers sold their sheep flocks as a result of the Payette decision (Barker 2011b). According to Hirai, “the Wilderness Society, National Wildlife Federation and 12 other environmental groups sent a letter to Simpson requesting he remove the rider” (2011). In a July 28, 2011 letter to Simpson, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies also requested the removal of the rider (WAFWA 2011). 

The final Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 was passed in December 2011 with bighorn management restrictions intact. However, Congressional representatives discussed Simpson’s bighorn rider and implemented changes (Ertz 2012). According to Ertz: “The language signed into law is significantly less troublesome for bighorn sheep than that first introduced” (2012).

For one thing, the clause prohibiting funding for new National Forest land management that would reduce domestic sheep for the sake of bighorns was limited to only the 2012 fiscal year instead of five years (U.S. Congress 2011). Additionally, within this prohibition, such new management cannot be “in excess of the management restrictions that existed on July 1, 2011” (U.S. Congress 2011, 262). So, older forms of management could take place. Also, the final bill contains an exception clause that allows the Secretary of Agriculture to carry out management changes if they are consistent with relevant state wildlife policy and performed in collaboration with affected grazing permit holders (U.S. Congress 2011).

Furthermore, the bill covers bighorn-domestic sheep conflicts on BLM land. It stipulates that the BLM “may only modify or cancel domestic sheep grazing permits after consulting with the appropriate State fish and game agency” (U.S. Congress 2011, 263) and must conform to the bighorn management plan of the state in question if such a plan exists. The BLM requirements are in place until September 30, 2012. Within the bill, voluntary closure of domestic sheep allotments to prevent conflict with bighorns is not restricted and is allowed to become permanent. The bill also allows permittees to waive only portions of their allotments that affect bighorns (U.S. Congress 2011).

The Simpson Riders
In March 2012, the USFS announced that the new Congressional requirements would halt their implementation of the 2012 grazing phase-out component of the Payette decision (Pramuk 2012, 2010). The USFS basically froze implementation of the decision at the 2011 level (Pramuk 2012). Pramuk remarks that: “Since the 2012 Appropriations Act prohibits expenditures for management restrictions imposed after July 1, 2011, the Forest will continue to manage domestic sheep grazing as it was managed during the 2011 grazing season, including non-use of certain allotments, monitoring, and implementation of the emergency response plan” (2012).

In June 2012, Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled that the USFS had misinterpreted the Simpson rider, and thus, implementation of the Payette decision would continue (Cole 2012a). In June 2012, Congressman Simpson renewed bighorn-domestic sheep management restrictions with an amendment to the 2013 Fiscal Year Interior Appropriations Bill. However, later in the month, he withdrew his proposed new rider and emphasized that he wanted to bring people together (Cole 2012b).

Barker, Rocky. 2011. Battle for bighorns: Conservationists are struggling to protect bighorn sheep on public lands from disease-carrying livestock. National Wildlife, July. http://www.nwf. org/News-and-Magazines/NationalWildlife/Animals/Archives/2011/ Battle-for-Bighorns .aspx (accessed January 7, 2012).

Barker, Rocky. 2011. Payette sheep decision delay drops to one year in final spending bill. Idaho Statesman. December 16. barker/payette_sheep_decision_delay_drops_one_year_final_spending_bill (accessed January 9, 2012).

Cole, Ken. 2012a. A Good Week for Bighorn Sheep in Idaho. Simpson Changes his Tune. (Updated). The Wildlife News. (accessed June 18, 2012).

Cole, Ken. 2012b. Cronyism: Mike Simpson renews Bighorn Sheep Disease rider in 2013 Interior Appropriations Bill. (accessed June 21, 2012).

Ertz, Brian. 2012. Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 Protects Bighorn Sheep Throughout the West. The Wildlife News. consolidated-appropriations-act-of-2012-protects-bighorn-sheep-throughout-the-west/ (accessed January 10, 2012).

Hirai, Kimberly. 2011. Big money bill could restrict bighorn managementHigh Country News. November 10. (accessed November 17, 2011).

Pramuk, Laura. 2010. News and Events: Payette National forest Announces Bighorn Sheep Management Decision. USDA Forest Service. /!ut/p/c4/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3gjAwhwtDDw9_AI8zPyhQoY6BdkOyoCAGixyP g!/?ss=110412&navtype=BROWSEBYSUBJECT&cid=STELPRDB5203913&navid=1800000000 00000&pnavid=null&position=News&ttype=detail&pname=Payette%20National%20Forest -%20News%20&%20Events (accessed January 9, 2012).

Pramuk, Laura. 2012. Payette N.F. Halts Implementation of Bighorn Sheep Decision at 2011 Stage. USDA Forest Service. =STELPRDB535 5841 (accessed March 7, 2012).

U.S. Congress. House. 2011. Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012. HR 2055. 112th Cong., 1st sess. enr.pdf (accessed January 13, 2012).

Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). 2011. July 28, 2011 Letter to Representative Simpson. RepresentativeSimpson.pdf (accessed July 12, 2012).