Wildlife groups have united in their fight against domestic sheep grazing on public lands in the Gravelly Range. The Gallatin Wildlife Association (GWA) and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation (YBF) are appealing a 2016 court decision that did not require the U.S. Forest Service to block grazing on federal lands. The injunction is scheduled for March 7 in Butte, Montana.
As goHUNT previously reported, in 2015, both groups sued the Forest Service over the issue. The judge agreed that the Forest Service didn’t gather enough scientific information to determine the impact of domestic sheep grazing in the Gravelly Mountains on bighorn sheep. However, while the 2016 ruling found the court siding with both groups, it was only on “two of the three issues raised in the suit” and “stopped short of blocking grazing on federal lands,” the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports.
Bighorn sheep have been impacted by bacterial pneumonia, which is linked to contact with domestic sheep. Massive die-offs within bighorn sheep herds have resulted in states taking action and limiting contact between wild bighorn sheep and domestic sheep. Additionally, GWA and YBF say that by allowing grazing to continue in the Gravelly Range, “it threatens a small population [of bighorn sheep] that lives primarily in the Greenhorn Mountains, on the northwestern side of the range,” according to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle.
GWA President Glenn Hockett says that the group is reaching out to sheep producers who use the land for gazing, and says, “We need to start talking to these permittees about finding a new place to graze domestic sheep.”
The 2016 ruling required the Forest Service to complete an environmental and scientific analysis on grazing management within the Gravelly Range. Jane Bowey of the Forest Service told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that “part of that work is complete” and “a final decision on whether the analysis should result in any management changes is expected next fall.”