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Judge Kicks Sheep Off Land To Protect Bighorns

A federal judge in Idaho has kicked sheep ranchers off Forest Service land along the Salmon River.  The ruling signals a tougher line on grazing in areas where domestic sheep might spread disease to their wild cousins, the bighorn sheep.  Guy Hand reports.

The judge acted on a complaint filed by environmental groups.  Jon Marvel is with the Western Watersheds Project.

Jon Marvel: "Well, the federal court ruled that the Allison-Berg allotment on the Nez Perce National Forest, the last domestic sheep allotment on that forest, should be closed in order to protect bighorn sheep.  And that’s a big victory."

Marvel says this weeks ruling — combined with closures that occurred  earlier in the year in nearby Hells Canyon — means Idaho is finally taking the protection of bighorn sheep seriously.

But Stan Boyd, with the Idaho Wool Growers Association, says the disease threat that domestic sheep allegedly pose has not been proven.  He says the ruling’s damage to ranchers is real.

Stan Boyd: "The courts and the environmental community have decided to go after these wool growers and it’s going to destroy a lot of western families."

Oregon phased out domestic sheep grazing on its side of Hells Canyon a decade ago.