- Your Town
Favors grizzly bears over sheep research
To the editor,
The grazing of domestic sheep by the federal government atop the Centennial Mountains of southwest Montana needs to cease. The USDA Agricultural Research Service, United States Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) recently settled a lawsuit with the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center of Bozeman. The lawsuit came about due to the Sheep Station claims in a recent biological opinion that no grizzly bears had been killed on or near the Sheep Station property. According to Sheep Station emails, several grizzlies have been killed near the Sheep Station. Even more disturbing is that grizzly bear #726 was killed, almost certainly by the Sheep Stationʼs sheep herder, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent a letter to the Sheep Station asking them to find alternative grazing lands.
Private individuals have voluntarily retired over 600,000 acres of grazing allotments on public lands in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to minimize conflicts with predators. 50 years ago there were no grizzly bears in the Centennial Mountains, now there are at least 18 resident grizzlies there according to the USFWS radio tracking data. The Centennial Mountains should be secure habitat as well as a low conflict corridor connecting the Yellowstone area to the habitat further to the west.
The federal government should not continue to graze domestic sheep on 16,000 acres in the Centennial Mountains of southwest Montana. There are more appropriate, less environmentally important places to conduct sheep research if it is still essential to the U.S. Sheep Industry. In 2012 the USFWS sent a letter to the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station requesting them to seek alternative places to conduct their research. Let the USSES continue to conduct their research on their 26,000 areas of land in Idaho or on other less sensitive lands than the Centennial Mountains of Montana.
Grizzly bear #726 is only the most recent grizzly to die due to the USSES grazing of domestic sheep in the Centennial Mountains. A previous FOIA request yielded a 1988 memo from the USSES that showed 13 bears were killed that year. More grizzly bears will come and more will die if the USSES does not move on. The time for the Sheep Station to move out of the Centennial Mountains of Montana is now.