On Tuesday morning we met with staffers of two western Senators (Crapo and Risch from Idaho). Later that morning we then had a very productive meeting with Chief Tom Tidwell, head of the USFS, and four members of his executive team. That afternoon we met for thirty minutes with Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (NV) and two of his staffers, followed by a similar meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK) and two of her staffers.
Yesterday we had individual meetings with three more Senators and their staffs; John Barrasso (WY), Jon Tester (MT), and Steve Daines (MT). After lunch we met with a staffer from Congressman Simpson's (ID) office.
The meetings concluded yesterday afternoon with the President of the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, Dr. Peregrine Wolff, DMV, making a presentation on the disease issue to about forty Senate staffers. Then last night we attended the annual banquet of the Congressional Sportsman's Caucus. This caucus represents ~ 300 Congressmen and Senators, making it the largest caucus in Congress.
Our objective on this trip was to get Congressional support for getting the USFS and the BLM to move forward on identifying high risk-of-contact grazing allotments as well as alternative allotments wool growers could move to which would not have a risk-of-contact. We also wanted their support in putting together collaborative meetings in each 'sheep state' where all interested stakeholders would be invited to participate in coming up with the best possible solutions.
All-in-all, I would say the trip was very successful. We were very well received across the board and got virtually universal agreement and support for our objective.
(The persons in the photo here are, from left to right, Dr. Peregrine Wolff, WSF President and CEO Gray Thornton, WSF Legislative Affairs Committee Vice-Chair Darryl Williams, WSF Board Intern Sierra Amundson, WSF Conservation Director Kevin Hurley, and myself, WSF Director and Legislative Affairs Committee member.)
Other groups, OTOH, such as Western Watershed and others, want them off public land entirely.
Our position is that there is room for wild sheep and that there is room for domestic sheep. But not together!
It is always best to compromise on these type issues.
Good luck, Robb
Kyle, do you feel like you gained congressional support? any indication as to what might happen in the future?
It's hard to see why anyone would oppose what we're advocating for because all we're wanting the Feds to do is identify high risk allotments and alternative allotments. The sheep industry does not oppose that and it's not a political issue.
Once we have that data, we'll sit down with the wool growers and other interested stakeholders to come up with the best possible solution.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
As we all know, this would be a HUGE gain for wild sheep and their sustainability!
There is no comparison between the costs of running livestock on public lands versus private. Your mindset is far too common among the uninformed as to the true costs of running on public lands. It is way more expensive to run on public.
With that said it may work for some sheep ranchers to change allotments but for many it would be a big hardship. Many of these ranchers have been in existence way before the government took over the public lands in the early 1900's. Thankfully both sides are trying to work out a sensible approach to solving the problem. After all everything is not just black and white.
Don't get me wrong, I am for both healthy wild sheep herds and viable public lands livestock grazing.
Wild sheep die-offs due to exposure to domestic sheep/goats needs to end.
Maybe Stoney can explain to us the extra costs associated with running on federal lands vs. private lands.
Where'd you get the $1.69? As I read it, the $1.35 number was set by legislation back in the mid-eighties and has not been changed.
Either way, woolgrowers and cattlemen are getting huge subsidies on this.
CO Oak's Link
Even so, it's still dirt cheap as well as being a huge subsidy.
If I could structure this, I'd auction off grazing rights with 5-10 year leases. That way the market would determine pricing.
CO Oak's Link
A 'fair price' for them, which apparently means the taxpayers should subsidize them to no end.
Public lands ranchers always get the bum rap of being subsidized and now the many in the hunting community are trying to blame the public lands rancher for any conflict of interest between livestock and wildlife. If the public lands grazing was so lucrative everyone would want to do it. Not so. Most public lands ranchers are under heavy fire from many sides mostly the radical environmentalists whom want not only to get rid of these ranchers but hunters as well. The hunting public would be well to get on the right side of the issues and not castigate or run down the livestock industry whom have made so many water and habitat improvements on the public land for many years which enable our wildlife types and numbers to expand to what they are today.
Believe me as I have had three different grazing permits with the US Forest Service and they darn sure aren't what they are cracked up to be. Just dealing with the new age land managers is a huge battle as the greenies are mostly in the management decisions being made by the US Forest Service and BLM. Many of them are cutting and doing away with much of the grazing on the public lands.
I guess you are still hung up on the so called subsidized public lands ranchers? This is a common misconception by many whom don't have a clue what it is like to run livestock on public lands. You would quickly change your tune if you were to own and try to operate a livestock operation on one.
Would you mind laying out a simplified outline to what you reference as cost of public land grazing as opposed to Private? Most of us here know you, know where you live and operate a business and I, at least, value your opinion.
Since many here are interested in "keeping wild sheep on the mountain", it would help to understand the broader picture for those of us on the outside looking in.
If woolgrowers are grazing on public land vs. private land, there's got to be a reason, and it's probably an economic reason.
"Follow the money," as someone once famously said.
In addition to the subsidies ("Auction off the grazing rights" as I noted above), I also have a problem with woolgrowers who refer to the USFS and BLM lands they graze on as, "My Land."
I agree with you! Those cattle ranchers have done a lot for grazing in the west! Those cattle ranchers should be dealt with reasonably; especially since they don't kill off entire flocks of wild sheep!
BTW, by a show of hands, who's seen huge flocks of domestic sheep at alpine and subalpine elevations in huge meadows of pristine mountain grassland with ample natural water in areas without fences guided by a latino shepherd?
The Jarbridge, NV!
Twice in two trips.
Region G in WY.
Lots of water, lots of grass. Sheetpots of domestic sheep
Gross income and net income (gross minus the costs of federal employees to oversee the program).
I'm betting the whole thing is, at best, a break even proposition. At best. We probably spend more tax $$ on overseeing the grazing program than it generates.
I don't think it has anything to do with money. Most public lands livestock ranches are a combination of private and public and were established and ran as total ranch operations well before the USFS and BLM were formed to manage the unappropiated lands.
In the southwest many ranches are year long grazing on the public land with very little deeded land and in much of the northern tier the the grazing allotments are seasonal, usually only during the summer months, with those ranches relying on more private land.
With all of this variation it is not a cut and dried situation for public lands ranchers and managers. What is true in most cases these ranches were established in the early days and came into being not as a choice but as the Government dictated after taking over the unappropriated lands.
I grew up in northwest Colorado and sheep and cattle grazing were and still are to a lesser degree in the Flattops Wilderness and surrounding areas.
What I am saying is if both sides can work out an agreement to satisfy what is needed to be done whether it be exchanging or changing public grazing allotments to protect our wild sheep, that is a good thing.
This should not be a debate about how bad people think grazing on the public land is. Most of these ranches were here well before the land became public and with a sustainable multiple use function in most cases that is changing to a non-consumptive use agenda right now and getting bigger everyday. This includes the left whom want hunting stopped also. We need to work together to insure our public lands remain in multiple use.
The Mexican Wolf debacle as well as the Northern wolves and grizzlies are helping the other side to rid the public land of consumptive users.
I don't disagree with your assertion that both sides need to work together on agreements that satisfy both. However, there are many public lands livestock operators out there that want nothing to do with compromise. And there are many situations where there are simply not win-win solutions available on public lands.
So in those cases, where either an operator is not willing to make changes to his operation or there are not public lands options available, what should the recourse be?
If you want to make the argument about who was here first (BLM/USFS or ranchers), then let's talk about which species of sheep was here first. Which species should have priority on PUBLIC lands?
This is not a personal attack. I think it's a good discussion to have. Obviously this is an issue that both sides are passionate about, and it is easy to get defensive. I would like to hear more of your perspective.
TXHunter, public lands grazing receipts are not a drop in the bucket compared to the cost to taxpayers to administer public lands grazing programs. It is a huge subsidy.
CO Oak's Link
Just another example of why our national debt is over $18 trillion and counting.
I think administration costs in this case are not subsidy, just government waste. Why do you think many states are wanting to take back control of the Federal (usurped lands)? It is because of the huge government waste and the takeover of the Federal Agencies management by the greens whom want to do away with consumptive uses on the Federal lands.
Which species were here first? Wild Sheep no doubt but then you had the European settlement of the west and things changed. The Government encouraged the settlement of the west with the Homesteading Acts and man took over a top predator and was moved to the top of the food chain. Settlers shaped the west and is largely a result of this early day settlement. It is now referred to as Custom and Culture but then again you look back at the true early day settlers and they brought livestock and started ranches way before the European settlement. It was the Spanish Conquistadors and their Hispanic settlers whom have been here for four centuries.
All we can do is work together to try and resolve the delima but fighting amonst ourselves does no good. Sure there will be impass in many cases but New Mexico has brought our wild sheep herds back to many huntable herds and it is not like all western states do not have that ability.
Hell we have had more trouble than most anywhere with our Rocky Bighorns here on the San Francisco River Canyon herds in NM and AZ for many years, with domestic sheep infecting our herd (pneumonia) but we keep trying to do a better job of managing and bringing back the herd after many die offs. Believe me I know what it is like to see our Rocky sheep herd go from 250 head to less than 40. We are up somewhat now but might never see the big numbers we used to have. The Game & Fish government trapper has taken out 10 male lions and some females the last couple of years This helps our sheep numbers a lot.
"This should not be a debate about how bad people think grazing on the public land is."
I agree and in no way is that our intent. But that IS the intent of many of the eco-freak organizations.
One of our good Bowsiter's PM'd me a couple of days ago and asked a couple of excellent questions.
He'd seen my mention of sitting across-aisle from Vice-President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne. He rightly took that to mean I was in First Class and was asking if WSF Directors fly First Class at the foundation's expense.
The answer is decidedly "NO!" I paid for 100% of my ticket on this trip. My airfare was entirely at my expense. I know most of our Directors do the same. If a Director wants to fly in any cabin other than Coach, it's on his dime, not the Foundation's dime. Even when we fly coach, most of us still pay for our own airfare.
He also asked if our Directors or volunteers were paid or benefitted financially in any way as a result of their positions. Again, the answer is decidedly "NO!" Only our very small staff gets paid. The rest of us do not.
"Wild Sheep Foundation driving solutions to Congress to stop deadly disease - Pneumonia still greatest obstacle to wild sheep restoration
NOVEMBER 3RD 2015
Cody, Wyoming. Nov. 5, 2015. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) recently met with members of Congress and federal wildlife agencies on solutions that create safe zones against the deadly pneumonia bacteria and viruses. Wild sheep were infected by first contact with domestic and goats during European settlement of the western part of the nation. New infections occur when wild and domestic sheep encounter each other in the wild. Legacy infections resurface as die-offs in previously-infected wild sheep herds even without new contact with domestics.
“We’re losing hundreds of wild sheep to this disease every year and it is decimating herds across the west,” said WSF Director Kyle Meintzer. “For example, in 2013, 400 wild sheep in California were lost, and that’s 80 per cent of what was the largest herd in the state. This year, wildlife managers were forced to sacrifice the herd in the Tendoy Mountains in Montana due to reoccurring pneumonia and low lamb survival. Wildlife managers with the help of hunters will remove 100% of the herd and later will repopulate with healthy bighorns. Having a disease-free zone around the new herd is necessary to prevent new infection and assure the success of restoration. This persistent disease is the likely result of contact previously with domestic sheep.” Meintzer added.
Several representatives of WSF met with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., including Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (NV), Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK), John Barrasso (WY), Jon Tester (MT) and Steve Daines (MT) in late September. Staff members from Senators Mike Crapo, Jim Risch (ID) and Congressman Mike Simpson’s (ID) offices also joined in the discussions.
Senators Murkowski and Barrasso in particular have been pushing a results-oriented approach in the strong tradition of multiple-use on federal lands. Along with Representative Cynthia Lummis (WY), sheep conservationists are grateful for the efforts of these members.
WSF is encouraging support for the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management to move forward on identifying the high risk-of-contact domestic sheep grazing allotments across the west, as well as to identify alternative grazing allotments for domestic sheep where there would not be such a high risk-of-contact. Domestic sheep, which are largely immune to the bacteria and viruses but are carriers of the disease, can transmit the pneumonia to wild sheep with simple nose-to-nose contact where their grazing lands overlap.
“We also wanted Congressional and agency support in putting together collaborative meetings in each ’sheep state’ where all interested stakeholders would be invited to participate to come up with the best possible solutions to minimize and/or eliminate risk of contact between wild and domestic sheep and goats,” said Meintzer.
Meintzer said there is a directive included in the Fiscal Year 2016 appropriation for the Department of Interior and Related Agencies, Senate Report 114-70 (http://1.usa.gov/1WkE2lw), which emphasizes the USFS to take “prompt action to seek and enact multiple-use solutions to ensure our nation does not continue to lose substantial portions of either our domestic sheep industry or our bighorn sheep conservation legacy.”
The Senate appropriation also includes a directive for the USFS to work with partners to schedule discussions with diverse stakeholders, including Federal land management agencies, domestic sheep industry representatives, grazing permittees, state wildlife management agencies, tribes, wild sheep conservation organizations and other parties interested in collaboration on strategies and solutions to address risk of disease transmission.
Congress must reach agreement on all appropriations bills by Dec. 11, 2015, when current spending policy expires, or extend the deadline.
“We are working state-by-state to meet with domestic sheep grazers, the Forest Service, and other interested parties. One of these meetings will be in Wyoming in December, and we hope to keep Utah, Nevada, and Idaho on a similar schedule,” said Meintzer. “We’d like to have decisions and agreements as soon as possible, but the key thing about these meetings is that we are pushing for a hard look at the areas of greatest risk of contact, and for all suitable and safe alternative grazing areas for domestic sheep.”"