Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson withdrew a rider that would have allowed one ranching family to continue to graze domestic sheep in bighorn sheep habitat on the Payette National Forest.
He announced his decision as the House Appropriations Committee was marking up the 2013 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill the rider was attached to in committee. Simpson said he wrote the rider to try and find a way to resolve a growing issue across the West between sheep ranchers and bighorn sheep advocates over the passage of diseases from domestic sheep to the wild bighorns.
Simpson said he plans to bring all of the parties together in a roundtable soon, probably in Boise, to seek to resolve the bighorn sheep-domestic sheep disease problem.
“I’m dedicated to to finding real solutions to this problem and I hope others will join me,” Simpson said.
Earlier this month U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill ruled the Forest Service reversal of its earlier decision to phase out grazing based on a 2012 rider Simpson wrote that was improperly done.
He issued a temporary restraining order, essentially preventing the Soulen Sheep Co. from grazing its sheep on 7,700 acres of bighorn habitat. Simpson said Wednesday he had pushed the rider to provide a time out so the parties could resolve the issue.
"I got involved to try to find a reasonable solution to solve this problem," he said. But instead it had amplified the rhetoric on the issue.
"I think there's a better way," Simpson told the committee.