Centennial Mountains domestic sheep grazing station heavily criticized by Idaho & Montana National Wildlife Federations
July 31, 2018
“Ever since the Sheep Station began reviewing their grazing program they have ignored wildlife concerns”, said Brian Brooks, Executive Director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “The Centennial Mountains are some of the best wildlife habitat in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem but the Sheep Station insists on keeping these high elevation grasslands exclusively as pastures for domestic sheep and blocking the public to hunting and other recreation.”
Under court order, the Sheep Station began reviewing its grazing program in 2008. Because of further litigation, the Sheep Station suspended grazing in the Centennial Mountains in 2013 and no grazing has occurred in the Centennials in the last five years. In 2015, the Agricultural Research Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed closing the Sheep Station because its research program could be better met by other ARS Research units. USDA budgets in both 2017 and 2018 again proposed closing the Sheep station but money for the facility was restored by Congress.
“The National Wildlife Federation and many other groups have long believed the Sheep Station could meet its research goals by focusing its grazing program on ARS lands around Dubois, Idaho,” said Tom France, NWF’s Regional Executive Director. “The Sheep Station has rejected every attempt at compromise and with it the support the conservation groups could offer its program.”
Sheep Station lands in the Centennials comprise 16,600 acres and is prime habitat for elk, mule deer and other wildlife including grizzly bears. The Sheep Station has rejected requests to open its lands in the Centennials to public access and hunting even when its sheep are not present.
“Domestic sheep only graze in the summer months” said Nick Gevock, Conservation Director at the Montana Wildlife Federation. “It’s ridiculous that that the Sheep Station not only prohibits public hunting but also allows a private outfitter to lease the hunting rights.
“The Sheep Station is an old facility conducting research that could be better done at modern research stations that do not occupy premiere wildlife habitat and hunting acreage” said Brooks. “We could work with the Station, build partnerships to support their work further down the mountain, while opening up 16,600 acres to recreation once again, but instead the Sheep Station has not engaged with the conservation or the hunting community. There is a win-win-win here for all interests, but that starts with dialogue.”