Idaho Sheep Ranchers Sue Feds Over Bighorn Plan

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Calling the plan "misguided," Idaho sheep ranchers want to haul the U.S. government into court in an effort to stop a decision that would cut domestic grazing areas in Hells Canyon and the Salmon River canyon by 70 percent.

The Idaho Wool Growers Association said the plan, designed by the U.S. Forest Service to protect bighorn sheep, would dramatically slash grazing on the Payette National Forest. The suits alleges that the plan was "based on the theory that contact between domestic sheep and bighorns under range conditions results in the transmission of fatal pathogens from domestic sheep to bighorns 100 percent of the time." Simply put, the sheep ranchers say the theory is flawed, at best.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Boise, asks a federal judge to declare the plan "arbitrary and capricious for violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedures Act and the Federal Advisory Committees Act."

Scientists are still attempting to understand how disease is transferred between the two species but experiments have documented transmission between penned bighorn and domestic sheep, and some bighorn sheep became sick and died following contact with some domestics.

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