BOISE, Idaho (KIFI)-A federal court ruled Friday against a U.S. Department of Agriculture decision to reauthorize and expand domestic sheep grazing in and around the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in the Centennial Mountains.
Western Wildlands, WildEarth Guardians, and the Center for Biological Diversity sued in 2019, charging that the government’s analysis failed to account for the impacts on grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and other vulnerable wildlife.
“The Centennial Mountains are a key corridor for wildlife moving out of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem,” said Adam Bronstein, Idaho director of Western Watersheds Project. “Today’s win reminds the Sheep Station that its livestock grazing ‘experiments’ pose real threats to native wildlife species that depend on these places.”
The court opinion also focused on the Sheep Station’s arguments that downplayed the impact on grizzly bears caused by heightened conflict under the expanded grazing allotments that had been closed for more than a decade.
“The court’s decision is welcome news for grizzly bear and bighorn sheep in the Centennial Mountains and Greater Yellowstone ecosystem,” said Laird Lucas of Advocates for the West, lead attorney for the plaintiff groups. “The risks of harm from experimenting with domestic sheep grazing in this vital habitat are just too large. The court rightly held that a full disclosure of the risks is needed, in compliance with bedrock environmental laws.”
As a result of the decision, the Sheep Station is not allowed to graze sheep on the summer pastures in the Centennials. The area is considered an import connectivity corridor for grizzly bears, wolves and other wildlife. Grazing also will not be permitted on the Forest Service’s Meyers Creek allotment or the Snakey-Kelly allotments, thus limiting any grazing to only the Sheep Station’s Headquarters and the Mud Lake feedlot.