Research ranging from sage grouse habitat survival, climate change and fire mitigation to building disease resistance in sheep, rangeland grazing strategies and bighorn sheep clearly illustrate the diversity of the valuable work being done at the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) in Dubois, Idaho. That was the focus of comments from defenders of the station during two virtual listening sessions held this week by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The research station has demonstrated an impact on all of agriculture, as well as to all of the nation's sheep industry; both for the meat industry and in the wool sector.
"It's easy to see how the sheep station benefits sheep producers in the western United States," commented David Greene, Maryland sheep producer. "However, on my operation, I have been using one of the new breeds of sheep developed at USSES since its introduction in 1978. This kind of research has implications across the entire country."
"There has been a surge of interest in the use of domestic wool," said Dan Gutzman, a buyer for Pendleton Wool. "The wool from these sheep and the sheep research from this area is critical for the continuation of commerce in the United States."
The necessity to maintain the Dubois station from a rural community, economic perspective was defended by multiple groups including the mayor of Dubois, the Clark County commissioner's office and the Clark County Economic Development Council.
USSES also provides educational opportunities that would otherwise be unavailable.
"As fewer veterinary students come from farming and ranching backgrounds, the lambing externship that [the USSES] provides these students in their clinical training gives them unique experiences under a range setting in supervising the lambing, obstetrics, neonatal care, maintaining health and trying to optimize health in a field setting by working with the staff and veterinarians at the experiment station during lambing," commented Joan Dean Rowe, DVM, veterinarian and professor in the Veterinary Medicine Department of UC Davis and president of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners.
In response to a comment about closing the station due to wildlife conflicts, Brent Roeder, executive for the Montana Wool Growers Association, stated, "We need to settle wildlife conflicts and other environmental conflicts with sound research and the sheep experiment station has a proven track record of doing this work. The station is in the perfect place and in the perfect time to provide this service and they need to be allowed to continue to do so."
A small share of speakers opposed the station including several from a legal activist group opposed to all livestock grazing on all federal lands.
ASI shared its formal comments of support with USDA and encourages all in the sheep industry to do the same. Comments can be submitted through Aug. 14 by emailing them to USSES@ars.usda.gov.
According to a statement made prior to the listening sessions, USDA will utilize all comments received in preparing its report back to Rep. Robert Aderholt, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administrations and Related Agencies.