SUBLETTE COUNTY – Bighorn sheep management warrants a closer look on a landscape scale by the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which opened its scoping process on April 21 by asking for public input.
The goal is to amend and update the BTNF’s 1990 Land and Resource Management Plan that now only addresses the reintroduced Darby Herd in the Big Piney Ranger District, according to spokesperson Mary Cernicek.
“The Forest Plan currently contains one ‘standard’ specific to bighorn sheep, which focuses entirely on the Darby Herd, reintroduced in 1981,” Cernicek said in her release. “However, this standard does not provide landscape-scale protections for (BTNF’s) bighorn sheep population.”
That one standard is “vague and open to interpretation” because it is not geographically defined, she said. It also does not apply to five “core native” historic bighorn sheep herds on the BTNF.
These are the Jackson North, Jackson South, Whiskey Mountain, Targhee and Absaroka hers and are protected by the state as “highest priority areas” for bighorn management, according to Cernicek.
The BTNF proposes to delete the 1990 standard for the “Reintroduction Areas of Bighorn Sheep Range Standard” on Darby Mountain and Fish Creek in the Big Piney Ranger District, which excludes all development activities and domestic sheep are not restocked.
It would be replaced with the proposed “Bighorn Sheep Conservation Standard – Domestic sheep and goats will not be restocked on allotments that overlap core, native bighorn sheep home ranges as delineated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.”
BTNF Deputy Supervisor Kevin Khung said, “We know that disease outbreak is a threat to bighorn sheep herds and separation of bighorn sheep from domestic sheep and goats as an important management tool for the forest. The forest is initiating the development of a plan amendment based on the need to change the Forest Plan to promote separation for core, native herds and to ensure the viability of bighorn sheep on the Forest.”
This plan amendment is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Environmental Policy Act Compliance and the National Forest System Land Management Planning and the Pre-decisional Administrative Review Process.
An environmental assessment is expected with release of a draft EA and an associated designated opportunity to comment. Comments will be accepted at any time during the planning process. To establish standing for eligibility to object, substantive comments must be received during a designated opportunity to comment.
People who comment will remain on the mailing list as interested parties during this process. The 45-day comment period closes on June 7. The project’s documents and an online link to comment are posted at https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58509.
Written comments may be submitted to Forest Supervisor Patricia O’Connor, Bridger-Teton National Forest, P.O. Box 1888, Jackson, WY 83001.
The BTNF is not accepting hand-delivered comments due to limited office staff and hours.