Last week, Western Watersheds Project and our allies scored one for bighorn sheep on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest of Montana. Bighorn herds in the Greenhorn Mountains were threatened by the agency's failure to consider the impacts of domestic sheep grazing in the nearby Gravelly Mountains.
WWP, Gallatin Wildlife Association, WildEarth Guardians, and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation had filed the lawsuit against the agency's domestic sheep authorization because of the disease risk posed to the Greenhorn herds. Additionally, the court found that the agency failed to analyze and disclose an agreement with the sheep permittees that allows them to kill bighorn that come near their herds and prohibits the agency from altering grazing management for the benefit of the bighorn.
The court ordered the forest to redo its analysis and consider the reintroduction of bighorn sheep in the area, follow the guidance for managing bighorn as a sensitive species, consider the kill permits in developing management alternatives, assess the scientific evidence of disease transmission, and address the reality that closed grazing allotments could be potential reintroduction sites for bighorn populations. Effectively, the court has ordered the agency to do the job it should have done in the first place!