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Legal Settlement Mandates Study of Sheep Impacts to Grizzly Populations in southwest Montana

Online Messenger #266

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Western Watersheds Project and our co-plaintiffs have reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildife Service and the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station that will require the government to consider the impacts of sheep grazing on grizzly bears before turning out the “woolly menaces” this summer.  The settlement agreement has been confirmed by Chief federal district court judge B. Lynn Winmill.

The lawsuit– filed by Cottonwood Environmental Law Center on behalf of WWP, Gallatin Wildlife Association, Native Ecosystems Council and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation– was brought last year after grizzly #726 went missing under very suspicious circumstances including spent bullets found at the government sheepherder’s camp.

Grizzly #726’s death differed from the Biological Opinion permitting the sheep grazing to occur, which stated, “No known grizzly bear mortalities have occurred in or near the action area in the recent past.” This discrepancy is in addition to other nearby grizzly deaths that the agencies have covered up, raising questions about the cumulative total impacts of the ongoing experiment.

This legal settlement ensures that grizzly mortality resulting from government grazing will get a hard look before any more sheep graze on this important area in the Centennial Mountains. WWP hopes that the new biological opinion will convince the government to stop sheep grazing on these lands once and for all.

Thanks to attorney John Meyer of the Cottonwood Environmental Law Center for representing WWP in this case.

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