Monday, September 22, 2008

Sheep grazing limits proposed to protect bighorns

Payette National Forest officials are considering a ban on domestic sheep grazing in some areas frequented by wild bighorns.

If approved, the plan would force several ranchers to give up grazing areas in parts of Hells Canyon and the Salmon River canyon. The draft plan is open to comment for 90 days.

Once a final decision is made, each individual grazing decision will be handled separately, forest Supervisor Suzanne Rainville told The Idaho Statesman.

The environmental review and draft plan followed an order by U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill in 2007 that ranchers move their sheep off of five allotments in Hells Canyon to protect the wild sheep.

Domestic sheep carry some diseases to which they have resistance but that can spread to more vulnerable wild bighorns.

In the draft, the Forest Service said Canada and the United States have a long history of large-scale, sudden, all-age die-offs in bighorn sheep populations, many of them associated with domestic animal contact.

Hearings on the draft plan are scheduled Oct. 6 at the Holiday Inn on Vista near Interstate 84 in Boise and Oct. 29 at the Payette National Forest supervisor's office in McCall, both at 6 p.m.

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