Approximately 50 livestock producers showed up to support Helle and Rebish/Konen families at the hearing for a Preliminary Injunction at the Federal Courthouse in Great Falls, MT on Wednesday July 8, 2015. Woolgrowers and cattle producers from the Sweetgrass Hills on the Canadian Border and as far away as Dillon MT came to sit in the courtroom while the families fought to defend their 4th generation family business and livelihood. The Helle Family had filed to be interveners in the lawsuit filed by the Gallatin Wildlife Association (GWA) against the US Forest Service. GWA filed a Preliminary Injunction to stop grazing domestic sheep on two of the seven allotments in the Gravelly Mountains this summer claiming their members would suffer immediate and irreparable harm. These allotments have been in use by this family for more than 60 years and historically for nearly 150 years.
John Helle stated that he was satisfied with the proceedings and was confident that Judge Brian Morse would likely deny the injunction. Helle and Rebish/Konen’s true concern is not only for their livestock’s welfare if they are forced to be removed but the health of the rangeland as well. The GWA had claimed that the need was urgent and that the immediate removal of the domestic sheep was necessary to prevent irreparable harm to their recreational plans.
The attorneys for the U.S. Forest Service and Helles pointed out that comingling of the big horn sheep and domestic sheep has never happened nor had there been any big horns lethally removed by FWP or the Helles or Rebish/Konen on these allotments. Their attorneys also state that their management practices do not endanger grizzly bears or big horn sheep. The Helles and Rebish/Konen Family use livestock protection dogs to deter conflict with predators and domestic sheep. There are no documented cases of LPDs on the grazing allotments ever threatening or causing harm to humans and Helles use a breed of LPDs known for non-aggression. Helles also socialize their LPDs well to prevent such issues.
Judge Morris stated that he would have a decision on the injunction by Friday, July 10th. The main lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to stop grazing on all seven of the allotments in the Gravelly Mountains will continue no matter the outcome of the decision made on Friday.