BILLINGS, MT–Yesterday the courtroom in Butte, Montana was full of ranchers, conservation groups and others who came to support the Helle and Rebish/Konen families as they continue their legal battle for the right to graze sheep in the Beaverhead-Deer lodge National Forest. Last year, the Gallatin Wildlife Association filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish (USFS) and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to prohibit domestic sheep grazing on two allotments in the Gravelly Mountains of southwest Montana.
Our network's Lane Nordlund spoke with John Helle after the hearing who talked about the support they've received to help continue fighting the lawsuit.
Helle said, “We are thankful for the support. The Southwestern Stockmans Association created a legal defense fund from donations and contributions from Madison and Beaverhead livestock protective committees. The Erb Family and Bank of Commerce made a substantial donation. Montana Farm Bureau, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association, American Sheep Industry, Montana and National Public Lands Council, Western Resources Legal Center all contributed as Amici and supported the Defense.”
“I'm grateful for all the people who attended the hearing and showed us support. I'm optimistic of the outcome, Judge Morris is a respectable man and I'm confident in his ability to fairly decide the case.”
Helle mentioned that main area of question for the judge to rule on concerns how the U.S. Forest conducted their National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) analysis and how a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was published between USFS and USFWS.
Helle encourages landowners and producers to work closely with the agencies that conduct the studies, making sure every “I” is dotted and every “T” is crossed. When an error does occur, anti-ag groups can use that against producers and the U.S. Government.
© Northern Ag Network 2016