Bighorn legislation could come back to bite ranchers
- Idaho Statesman
Gov. Butch Otter must decide this week whether to sign a bill that would require the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to kill or remove bighorn sheep from public land where domestic sheep graze.
Signing Senate Bill 1175 will undercut a collaborative process he set up under the auspices of Fish and Game and the Idaho Department of Agriculture. And a House leader who supports the bill acknowledges it will play into the hands of activists who want to force sheep ranchers off public lands.
But lawmakers are so mad they can't help themselves.
The Idaho Legislature passed the bill with huge majorities because many members think Ron Shirts of Weiser and his family were treated unfairly when a 1997 agreement over transplanting bighorn sheep to Hells Canyon was overruled by a federal court. A federal judge ordered the Shirts to remove their domestic sheep from Smith Mountain in the Payette National Forest to prevent them from passing disease to bighorns.
House Assistant Majority Leader Scott Bedke, a cattle rancher, sees the issue as the latest in a familiar, and to him disturbing, trend in which protecting an iconic species becomes a surrogate for another agenda - this time driving sheep ranchers off of public land.
Jon Marvel, is executive director of the Western Watersheds Project.
Marvel resents being singled out as the voice of thousands of people in and out of Idaho who share his goals and love of native species and places. That's because his open disdain for ranchers, and especially the cowboy culture, undercuts the power of his cause. Read More
There comes a point in time when you finally have to draw that line in the sand and make your stand. The Idaho Legislature has apparently been backed into that corner and is now ready to do what it takes to protect their ranchers and our food supply. The animal rights activists and environmentalists are practically salivating at the opportunity to eliminate agriculture from public lands. If they get it done, how do we replace this lost resource. Remember, it’s only a resource if we can use it, otherwise it’s scenery and that won’t fill your stomach.