Bozeman, Montana. July 9, 2018. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) is alerting the Senate and House this week to keep public land grazing controversies out of the Farm Bill, to head off a misguided effort in the version of the Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives.
Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney carried an amendment that mandates the Forest Service to fill vacant grazing allotments on public lands without consideration of causing another die-off or mercy-killing of bighorns and other wild sheep. Sheep carry the bacterium Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (M. ovi) or “sheep pneumonia.” When wild and domestic sheep mix, the risk of disease multiplies.
“This is not just a wild sheep issue, this is a public lands and collaboration issue,” said Gray N. Thornton, president and CEO of WSF. “Wyoming has the longest-running working group on resolving such conflicts inside the state, among the stakeholders most involved, and is the only state to establish this cooperative approach in state law. This Federal mandate would undo decades of good work.”
“The Wild Sheep Foundation and others have spent, in Wyoming alone, more than $500,000 to transplant and remove domestic sheep in Wyoming’s primary wild sheep habitat. Those efforts represent a mutually beneficial relationship and respect between wild sheep interests. The Cheney Grazing Amendment could not only destroy the legacy of Wyoming’s collaboration, but also doom wild sheep populations to an all-age die-off,” Thornton added.
M. ovi acts as a set-up agent, causing pneumonia in wild sheep. Once contracted, wild sheep populations can experience 75 to 100% herd die-off. As active conservation efforts continue, encroachment of domestic sheep into wild sheep habitat serves as the single most devastating factor to fully restoring wild sheep populations.
The Senate has also passed a version of the Farm Bill, which does not include the troublesome provision. Soon, the two chambers will meet to create a final bill.
During Senate debate, Wyo. Senator Mike Enzi filed the amendment, but it was not considered. WSF is calling on its members, partners, and all conservation-minded people to contact their senators and representatives in opposition of any such language being added to the final version of the Farm Bill as the Senate and House versions merge.
“Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow have done good, hard work in bringing a bipartisan Farm Bill to the floor. The last thing we all need is a controversy over public land grazing,” said Thornton. “The Farm Bill is important to avid outdoors enthusiasts, hunters, and other conservationists. It represents the best cooperative approaches in conservation, addressing the needs of ranchers and outdoor recreationists. We are working directly with members of Congress to keep it that way.”
WSF urges people of all states to contact their Senators using the link below, and demand that no public land grazing allotment mandates be included in the final Farm Bill.