Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society (RMBS) Executive Director Terry Meyers recently met with High Country News and representatives from Senators Hickenlooper and Bennet’s offices to discuss concerns about a proposed grazing decision in western Colorado.
The Gunnison Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office is proposing to renew grazing permits that jeopardize RBS-21, the large, native bighorn sheep herd in the western San Juan Mountains. Despite concerns raised by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) managers, RMBS, Wild Sheep Foundation, and others, the BLM issued proposed decisions in August to reauthorize grazing on all 9 allotments analyzed in the Gunnison Domestic Sheep Grazing Permit Renewals EIS.
Comments submitted by CPW on the proposal indicate that even with the proposed implementation of measures to mitigate the risk of contact between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep that unreported and undetected contact events are highly probable, given the presence of stray domestic sheep, foraying bighorn behavior, and contact events within the analysis area, and the rugged and remote terrain. Further, CPW noted that they have documented 25 stray domestic sheep occurrences, 34 bighorn foray events, and seven commingling events between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep within the analysis area. Finally, CPW notes that the decision to renew these grazing permits could influence the availability of 19% of the bighorn sheep hunting licenses in the state.
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