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Sunshine With A Dark Cloud

Written by Dennis Sun

     If you are in the sheep business or looking to get back in the sheep business, you need to be in Park City, Utah on Nov. 6-8. I know this isn’t much notice for most of you, but if you are like me and always wait until the last minute to commit because of concerns about the weather, what work needs done or just have been too busy to think about it, it’s time to commit today and get to Park City. 

A number of years ago, Idaho Wool Growers joined with Wyoming Wool Growers to hold a joint convention in Sun Valley, Idaho. It really worked out well, attracting numerous national lamb and wool interests. The following year, the convention was held in Sun Valley again and was a success again. The joint convention was held in Jackson for two years, and now here we are in Park City with wool growers from four states representing the industry. We’re proud to have Wyoming there in a leading role.

That is part of the sunshine. The best sunshine is for the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, especially the Board of Directors, the Executive Committee, President Peter John Camino and new Executive Director Amy Wallop Hendrickson. Their hard work, along with the assistance of numerous members – including Laurie Boner who helped with the Ram Sale, website and other issues – the Association is back on its feet, and it is running hard. We applaud your hard work.

As far as the dark cloud, there are a couple of them looming over the sheep industry, especially for those who graze on the Forest Service in the western part of the state. These dark clouds are the result of lawsuits in front of a judge who makes it a practice of ruling against public lands ranching.

The potential closing of the USDA Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho would hurt not only Wyoming sheep producers but also sheep producers across the West. The station has close to 100 years of valuable data on grazing sheep on western forests among all kinds of wildlife, including sage grouse. These data may be very important in the coming year. Besides data, it is the perfect place to develop new studies of sheep grazing in the West. It does look like these reasons are exactly why some want the station closed. 

The other dark cloud out there is the elimination of grazing sheep on Forest Service lands where there is a chance of contact with Bighorn sheep. This action is devastating for those sheep ranchers and could put some out of business, all for the wrong reasons. This short-sighted decision to manage for “zero risk/zero tolerance” is unacceptable. Clearly our government is not doing this with the much larger human issue of the Ebola threat. So what is more important, loss of human life or a couple of Bighorn sheep?

In a letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack, a number of western Senators wrote, “These actions call into question the USFS’s species viability rule as potentially being outside the legal authority Congress has granted through the multiple use statues directing management of federal lands.” 

There we go again – more federal government overreach.