June 10, 2005 (ENS): Conservation groups in California
and across the country are concerned about a proposal by the U.S.
Forest Service to kill endangered bighorn sheep to keep them from
coming into contact with domestic sheep. The proposed slaughter
is intended to prevent transmission of disease to the bighorns.
The Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Inyo, Defenders
of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Wilderness
Society, and other conservation groups have asked the Forest Service
and the California Department of Fish and Game to abandon the proposal
to kill Sierra Nevada bighorns, which was published in the California
Regulatory Notice Register of May 6, 2005.
"It is suspicious," the groups wrote in a June 6 letter
to Vern Bleich of the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG),
that the state and federal agencies did not try to inform the public
about their plans "beyond this obscure publication," failing
to inform even groups that have long supported California wildlife
"This deadly approach to ‘protecting’ bighorns
from domestic sheep is unwise, contrary to common sense, immoral,
and inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act," the groups
wrote. "A better, more ethical approach would be to remove
domestic sheep from bighorn habitat."
"Removing the domestic sheep conflict would protect the bighorns
and public-interest for wildlife conservation. Sheepmen do not have
a ‘right’ to graze public lands, they have a permitted
privilege, subject to end or modification at any time due to other
needs, such as conservation and recovery of endangered wildlife
like Sierra Nevada bighorns," wrote the conservation groups.
These conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in 1999 to list Sierra Nevada bighorns as endangered, and
five years ago they were listed; the state of California listed
them six years ago.
Since the sheep were listed on both state and federal levels bighorn
numbers have increased, the groups pointed out.
But the CDFG bighorn monitoring program has documented the increase
in numbers of these animals and also the fact that they have moved
onto National Forest public lands that are grazed by private domestic
sheep, the groups wrote.
The Forest Service has closed two allotments to domestic sheep
grazing, but the agency has done no more. The groups write that,
"The Forest Service has a duty under the Endangered Species
Act to protect the bighorn by closing these public land grazing
allotments. Killing wild sheep amounts to rewarding that agency
for ignoring its mandatory responsibilities."
"Sierra Nevada bighorn are California’s sheep,"
the groups coaxed. "The state has already been killing our
wild mountain lions to ‘save’ bighorns. Killing both
wild lions and wild bighorns will turn this popular program into
a controversial one and rob CDFG of the good will it has earned
The groups have sent copies of their letter to both U.S. senators,
to the U.S. Forest Service Chief, and to the CDFG director asking
for a detailed response by June 16.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2005. All Rights Reserved.