WildEarth Guardians

A Force for Nature

Select Page
Wikimedia Commons

Huge win for bighorn sheep in Idaho

Western Watersheds et al. v. USFS; Western Watersheds et al. v. BLM
Won, Won temporary restraining order in USFS case; BLM will conduct new NEPA analysis.
Case No.
1:17-cv-00434-CWD; 09-0507-E-BLW
Date Filed
October 17, 2017
State, Venue
Idaho, Idaho Federal District Court
Laurie Rule (Advocates for the West), Lizzy Potter (Advocates for the West)
Public Lands
A federal district court in Idaho blocked domestic sheep grazing in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, where the South Beaverhead Mountains bighorn sheep were threatened by disease transmission and competition from domestic sheep. The two suits, filed against the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM), successfully argued that both agencies were in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and National Forest Management Act (NFMA) for their continued operation of the outdated USDA Sheep Experiment Station, which grazed domestic sheep in bighorn habitat with full knowledge of the risk posed to wild sheep populations.

Our case is an important precedent restricting domestic sheep grazing within bighorn ranges that builds on other cases won by Western Watersheds Project over the previous decade. USDA and BLM continue, however, to knowingly endanger bighorn sheep, including the struggling South Beaverhead population. Domestic sheep can transmit a pathogen to wild sheep, which results in pneumonic die-offs that can reduce wild bighorn sheep herds by 75 to 100 percent. Recent research indicates that the pathogen can be transmitted through the air, and domestic sheep, which are immune to the pathogen, can spread it to wild sheep when the species graze the same range. These most recent lawsuits will end domestic sheep grazing in range used by the South Beaverhead Mountains bighorns and force both agencies to complete new analyses of grazing impacts in compliance with with NEPA and NFMA.