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Rare East-West Wildlife Linkage Placed At Risk for Needless Research
DENVER – WildEarth Guardians has challenged domestic sheep grazing at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in the Centennial Mountains along the of Idaho – Montana border. The group submitted comments yesterday in response to a proposal by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to allow domestic sheep grazing at the Sheep Experiment Station in historical bighorn sheep habitat.
“This is the Sheep Experiment Station that just won't go away,” said Greg Dyson of WildEarth Guardians. “The Secretary of Agriculture himself has said there is no need for it, yet the ARS insists it has to graze domestic sheep in the Centennials, in one of the most important wildlife corridors in the country.”
The Sheep Experiment Station was founded in 1915 and has come under fire as the U.S. sheep industry has declined—the number of U.S. consumer sheep peaked in 1942 at 56.2 million; today there are less then 5.5 million.
The Centennial Mountains are a rare east-west mountain range, forming an important wildlife linkage between Yellowstone, Central Idaho and the Northern Rockies. Grizzly bears, black bears, gray wolf, lynx, wolverine, and sage grouse inhabit the area and could establish more resilient populations through the connection of these ecosystems via the Centennials. It is also part of the only remaining habitat for the Arctic Grayling fish in the entire United States.
The ARS has proposed grazing some 1,600 domestic sheep at a time, despite the area being near three bighorn sheep herds. Domestic sheep are known to pass disease to bighorn sheep that can kill off a major portion of a bighorn herd immediately, and the disease can then linger in the remainder of the herd for years, making recovery all but impossible.
“The ARS is in deep denial about the disease domestic sheep pass to bighorn,” said Greg Dyson. “The only researcher that still defends the domestic sheep industry works for the ARS. So instead of reviewing all the science about disease transmission from domestics to bighorn, the ARS cited their own discredited researcher and ignored all the other science. It is downright unethical for our government to act so irresponsibly.”
A copy of the WildEarth Guardians comments is available here.