Victory for bighorn sheep and other wildlife in the Centennial Mountains!

19th of Apr 2021

Judge Rules Against Federal Sheep Station Grazing in Idaho’s Centennial Mountains. 

Last week, Advocates for the West secured a strong victory for bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, and other vulnerable wildlife in the Centennial Mountains. Judge Bush ruled in our favor in federal court to halt the reauthorization and expansion of domestic sheep grazing  in and around the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in the Centennial Mountains on the Idaho–Montana border.

The ruling responds to our 2019 lawsuit on behalf of Western Watersheds ProjectWildEarth Guardians, and Center for Biological Diversity which challenged the Sheep Station’s July 2018 decision to continue grazing domestic sheep in sensitive wildlife habitats, relying on an insufficient environmental analysis that disregarded threats to area wildlife, including the high risk of disease transmission from domestic sheep to wild bighorns.

“The court’s decision is welcome news for grizzly bear and bighorn sheep in the Centennial Mountains and Greater Yellowstone ecosystem,” said Laird Lucas, lead attorney in the case. “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.”

The judge agreed with our argument that the 2017 federal environmental analysis of the Sheep Station’s operations failed to consider the impacts of grazing on adjacent U.S. Forest Service lands and contiguous wildlife habitat. The judge also found that the government’s analysis of impacts to bighorn sheep was “[a]t best . . . inconsistent, incomplete, and/or confusing; at worst, it evidences cherry-picked data to support the Sheep Station’s preferred alternative.”

The rugged Centennial Mountains are a wild place inhabited by grizzly bears, wolves, bighorn sheep and sage grouse,” said Sarah McMillan, conservation director at WildEarth Guardians. “This anachronistic ‘experiment’ plunked in the middle of that wildness makes it a dangerous place for wildlife. It’s time to take a much closer look at this ‘experiment’ and honestly weigh the impacts on the region’s iconic wildlife against the limited value the station provides.”

As a result of last week’s decision, the Sheep Station is not permitted to graze sheep on the summer pastures in the Centennials. The mountains are considered an important 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.

Read the full ruling here.