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Idaho Wool Growers v. Vilsack

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20047
Nos. 14-35445, (9th Cir., 03/02/2016)

The Ninth Circuit upheld the U.S. Forest Service's decision to close to domestic sheep grazing approximately 70% of allotments on which grazing had been permitted in the Payette National Forest in Idaho. The Forest Service's decision was made in response to concerns about disease transmission to immunologically vulnerable bighorn sheep. Sheep ranchers and others in the wool trade challenged the decision under NEPA, but a lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. Any error by the Forest Service in failing to consult the USDA's Agricultural Research Service before preparing the final supplemental impact statement and record of decision, was harmless. Because the lack of consultation did not prevent the Forest Service or the public from considering information about the uncertainties in transmission of disease from domestic to bighorn sheep, and because information about the precise mechanisms of such transmission was not a basis of the Forest Service’s decision, no prejudice resulted from the lack of consultation. Nor did the Forest Service violate NEPA by declining to supplement the final supplemental impact statement with a 2010 study about the transmission of disease from domestic to bighorn sheep. Likewise, the Forest Service's choice and use of particular models to evaluate the risk of contact between domestic and bighorn sheep and the effects of disease transmission from domestic to bighorn sheep was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.