North American Packgoat Association Files Motion for Contempt Against the Forest Service

On June 24, 2015 the North American Packgoat Association (NAPgA), together with the Idaho Wool Growers Association (IWGA), filed a motion in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho for an order holding the United States Forest Service in contempt of court. The motion is related to the Forest Service’s recent decision to prohibit goatpacking on the Shoshone National Forest in northwestern Wyoming. In reaching such decision on the Shoshone National Forest, the Forest Service appears to have relied on the findings and conclusions of two bighorn sheep science committees—the Payette RADT and Payette Principles Committees—that were established and utilized by the Forest Service on the Payette National Forest in Idaho. Because these committees were established and utilized in violation of the procedural mandates of the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), the IWGA sued the Forest Service in the United States District Court for the District of Idaho in 2008 seeking to have the committees declared unlawful and to prohibit the Forest Service’s use of the committees’ reports. The Court ruled in favor of the IWGA and ordered the Forest Service not to rely upon the findings and conclusions of the Payette RADT and Payette Principles Committees in reaching future agency decisions. The committees lacked public participation, including participation by members of the IWGA and NAPgA, and, as a result, the findings and conclusions of the committees were uninformed and biased.

Despite the clear order of the United States District Court for the District of Idaho, the Forest Service on the Shoshone National Forest appears to have relied on the illegal Payette RADT and Payette Principles Committee reports. Indeed, these reports are directly cited in the Shoshone National Forest’s own “Risk Analysis of Disease Transmission between Domestic Sheep and Goats and Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep” (Shoshone RADT Report). As the Forest Service’s use of the uninformed and biased findings and conclusions of the Payette RADT and Payette Principles Committees on the Shoshone appears to be a violation of the Court’s order in Idaho, NAPgA has teamed up with the IWGA to seek enforcement of the Court’s order against the Forest Service. This action takes place in Idaho because that is where the IWGA originally filed its lawsuit. If successful, however, the IWGA and NAPgA are requesting that the Shoshone RADT Report be thrown out as it improperly relies upon the Payette RADT and Payette Principles Committee reports. If the Shoshone RADT Report is thrown out, the Forest Service will likely have to reconsider its decision to prohibit goatpacking on the Shoshone National Forest, as the Shoshone RADT Report provided the so-called “scientific” basis for that decision.