Bighorn Vaccine Can’t Cure Sheep Lease Controversy

A year ago the Payette National Forest, in west-central Idaho, announced it was going to cut back on leases to domestic sheep ranchers to reduce the risk of a pneumonia-like disease spreading from the domestic sheep to the local, native bighorns.

Earlier this year a Washington State University researcher announced that he had developed a vaccine to protect the bighorns from the disease. That was wonderful news to an Idaho congressman, who introduced a rider to an appropriations bill that would delay the revocation of the sheep grazing leases for five years.

But in a letter to his funders, the WSU researcher said the bighorn vaccine is still 10 years from practical application. (Read more in the Lewiston Tribune.) This week a consortium of wildlife groups urged the congressman to withdraw his rider. (Read about it in the Idaho Statesman.)

The implications are bigger than Payette National Forest. The congressman has said that his rider merely stops other national forests from cutting back on their domestic sheep leases to protect bighorns from disease. (Read about it, again, in the Idaho Statesman.)

Photo by  Ingrid Taylor (http://www.flickr.com/photos/taylar/) Colorado bighorn sheep

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