Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho, Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, has withdrawn his rider to the 2013 Interior Appropriations Bill. This amendment would have blocked the Payette National Forest from implementing the third and final phase of its management plan to separate bighorn sheep from domestic sheep on 6,800 acres of public land through grazing reductions.
"Today, I'm calling for a 'time out' from the fighting and allegations - many of which are false", said Chairman Simpson earlier today. "I got involved in this issue because I care deeply for our ranchers and for the tribes and sportsmen who work so hard on bighorn sheep conservation. I got involved to find a reasonable solution and tried to work with ranchers, hunters, and land management agencies to solve this problem."
The Payette National Forest management plan was finalized in 2010 and the first phase, which banned domestic sheep from 54,000 acres, took effect this past year. The second wave of closures will have another 7,700 acres closed to grazing this year. In 2013, the final 6,800 acres will go off-line, totaling approximately 68,500 acres of closures.
The Chairman proposed the new rider, which specifically mentioned the Payette National Forest and would have not allowed federal agencies to spend money to institute grazing reductions that would be implemented after July 1, 2011. However, Representative Simpson decided for a withdrawal of the amendment so that all interested parties can come to the table to discuss potential solutions.
"We appreciate Chairman Simpson taking a step back in order to foster further consideration" said Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation President Jeff Crane. "We believe the Congressman's approach is right on target."
Chairman Simpson added similar language to a fiscal 2012 spending bill that forbid the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management from implementing restrictions on domestic sheep grazing that did not exist before July 1, 2012. This rider was taken to court and earlier this month, federal Judge B. Lynn Winmill of Boise ruled that Payette National Forest was exempt from this rider because this plan was finalized before the aforementioned date.
"American sportsmen have always appreciated Chairman Simpson's leadership for sustainable and collaborative conservation for all public land user groups," said Safari Club International (SCI) President John Whipple. "SCI looks forward to working with Chairman Simpson to ensure continued funding for bighorn sheep research. Without his support, the needed scientific backing for appropriate local decision-making will not exist."
—courtesy Outdoor Wire