Siddoway’s Bill Threatens Idaho’s Wild Sheep!

June 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Articles

New Legislation Threatens Bighorn Sheep
Populations Across Idaho
For Immediate Release;May 29, 2009
Lapwai, Idaho — On May 7th, legislation that dictates state policy for managing domestic-
bighorn sheep interactions was enacted. The bill was sponsored by Terreton domestic sheep
producer Senator Jeff Siddoway. A previous bill with similar language proposed by Sen.
Siddoway had been vetoed earlier in the legislative session this year. Domestic and bighorn
sheep are incompatible when occupying the same range, as domestic sheep transmit fatal disease
to bighorn sheep, causing them to die of pneumonia. However, the new law directs the
Department of Fish and Game to develop allotment management plans based on “best
management practices” (BMPs) to justify continued domestic sheep grazing within occupied
bighorn sheep range; and then requires the IDF&G Director, to certify that implementation of
BMPs will provide separation between domestic and bighorn sheep and reduce the risk of
disease transmission to acceptable levels for continued bighorn sheep viability. rocky-mountain-bighorn-sheep1

“We are disappointed this legislation went forward”, said Samuel N. Penney, Chairman for the
Nez Perce Tribe. “The Tribe advocated for the bill to be vetoed as the previous legislation had
been because we are convinced it would lead to continued bighorn sheep declines. The recently
passed bighorn sheep legislation holds domestic sheep grazing harmless, continues status quo
grazing within and in close proximity to occupied bighorn sheep range, encourages continued
bighorn sheep population declines, and precludes opportunities for bighorn sheep recovery,”
added Chairman Penney.
As called for in the new legislation, the State of Idaho and the allotment permittee have
developed allotment management plans based on BMPs for federal grazing allotments
administered by the Nez Perce National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management within the
Salmon River canyon. Despite implementation of BMPs, on May 19th, twelve days after the new
legislation went into effect, the permittee for these allotments reported a bighorn ram in close
proximity to his domestic sheep. An investigation by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game
confirmed the presence of a sick bighorn sheep showing clinical signs of pneumonia that was
suspected to have contracted disease through contact with domestic sheep. The IDFG has
decided to remove the ram to confirm cause of illness and hopefully reduce the risk of this ram
spreading disease through the bighorn sheep population. Removal efforts have, so far, been
unsuccessful and ongoing monitoring indicates the ram has interacted with other bighorn rams in
the area, potentially spreading disease to other bighorn sheep. “This unfortunate incident is a
living example of the ineffectiveness of BMPs, and a clear message of the devastating
consequences of implementing this flawed legislation,” said Mr. Baptiste, Vice Chairman for the
Nez Perce Tribe. “We are hopeful this incident will not result in a disease outbreak, but at this
point all we can do is sit back and hope for the best,” concluded Mr. Baptiste.big-sheep-glacier-picture
“Although we will not know for sure until the sick ram can be collected and tested, if this ram
has pneumonia, this fits the classic pattern of comingling between domestic and bighorn sheep”
said Keith Lawrence, Wildlife Management Director for the Nez Perce Tribe. “The fact that the
ram was already showing signs of illness when first observed suggests to us that the initial
contact must have occurred sometime prior to this sighting and was undetected,” added Mr.
Lawrence. “Monitoring efforts during May, have documented straying of unattended domestic
sheep into areas close to bighorn sheep,” added Mr. Lawrence. “The demonstrated inability to
detect contact, control straying domestic sheep, and removing bighorns that may be infected, are
all indications of the ineffectiveness of BMPs to provide separation and reduce the risk of
contact and disease transmission,” concluded Mr. Lawrence.
“It is unfortunate we are placed in the position of having to kill bighorns to save them. This is
not a sustainable strategy for recovery or even persistence, but can only lead to the eventual
extirpation of these magnificent animals,” said Chairman Penney. “Clearly, by relying on
ineffective BMPs, this new legislation will fail to protect bighorn sheep and is an obstacle to our
efforts to recover bighorn sheep; a culturally significant species to the Nez Perce Tribe and an
iconic species to wildlife enthusiasts across Idaho,” concluded Chairman Penney.
The Nez Perce Tribe is opposed to the new law because its prescription is not based in science.
“BMPs have not been proven effective,” explained Mr. Baptiste. “It is not possible to measure
the effectiveness of management tools that are not based upon scientific principles or research,
and past experience by other state and federal agencies have shown BMPs to be ineffective at
maintaining separation or reducing the risk of disease transmission,” added Mr. Baptiste. “We fear this new law insures continued risk of contact between these two species resulting in a
continued threat of fatal disease outbreaks in bighorn sheep populations. In addition, this flawed
legislation will result in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game having to exercise their policy
of outright killing of bighorn sheep that come into contact with domestic sheep when BMPs fail
to provide separation,” concluded Mr. Baptiste.
The Nez Perce Tribe is actively working with federal agencies to restore bighorn sheep
populations within a reach of the Main Salmon River upstream from Riggins, Idaho. Salmon
River bighorn sheep are the last remaining native populations of bighorn sheep in Idaho and
population numbers have declined to remnant levels over the past decades and the Nez Perce
Tribe would view it as a tragedy to see them disappear and is working to avoid such an event.


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