Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Idaho wool growers file lawsuit over bighorns

The Idaho Wool Growers Association and Shirts Brothers Sheep has filed a lawsuit against the Idaho Department of Fish and Game concerning bighorn sheep management.

The groups in the lawsuit filed earlier this week contend Fish and Game has not lived up to a 1997 agreement the groups say was designed to protect domestic sheep growers from potential adverse effects to their businesses from bighorn sheep introductions.

The groups are asking for unspecified damages "in an amount to be proven at trial."

The lawsuit comes several months after the Payette National Forest released a set of proposed updates to its plan to keep domestic sheep from intermingling with wild bighorns, citing disease transmission that kills bighorns.

One alternative in the draft calls for reducing domestic grazing by about 60 percent in Hells Canyon and allotments in the Salmon River Canyon.

"The Idaho Department of Fish and Game took no action to block the Forest Service from modifying the grazing allotments for Shirts and Shirts Brothers and took insufficient action to prevent Shirts and Shirts Brothers from being harmed by these actions," the lawsuit says.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Saturday.

Idaho bighorn numbers have dwindled by half since 1990, to about 3,500 animals.

The 1997 agreement with wool growers included Fish and Game, federal land management agencies, and a bighorn sheep conservation group. The lawsuit contends that in 2007 the Forest Service began reducing domestic sheep grazing to protect bighorns.

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