BLM Releases Policy Aimed at Supporting Healthy Bighorn Sheep Populations
April 8, 2016

In March, the Bureau of Land Management released policy guidance for the coordination and management of domestic sheep and goats and wild sheep and their habitat on lands administered and managed by the BLM.

Specifically, Policy Manual 1730 sets forth guidance for the management of BLM lands where the potential for disease transmission exists by interaction between wild sheep and authorized use of domestic sheep and goats. This guidance announcement aligns policy with BLM's current approach to make informed management decisions on domestic sheep and goat grazing. The policy is not expected to have a significant effect on existing grazing levels.

The BLM manages domestic sheep grazing allotments on federal lands and is working with the U.S. Forest Service, state wildlife managers, tribes and other partners to support sustainable bighorn sheep populations and habitat, and domestic sheep use on BLM-managed lands.

"The policy that was made public March 18 was the first viewing of the document by sheep officials despite two meetings and a conference call with BLM in the preceding days and weeks," stated American Sheep Industry Association Executive Director Peter Orwick. "The goal of the policy to manage sheep grazing to sustain bighorn sheep seems at odds with the multiple use mandate of BLM by the U.S. Congress. It is concerning that BLM has no requirement to manage separately for bighorns as the U.S. Forest Service believes it has, yet this policy has been developed."

Orwick relayed that he believes the agency will consider bighorns when National Environmental Policy Act decisions are due or perhaps when BLM grazing in nearby lands are being assessed for bighorns. The policy does not dictate the numerics of buffer zones or separation between sheep but does list numerous options such as trucking sheep instead of trailing or switching grazing from sheep to other livestock.

According to Orwick. "Another key issue in my read of the documents is applying the policy to lands not occupied by bighorn sheep as well."

Full copies of Policy Manual 1730, the Bighorn Sheep Risk of Contact v2 Users Guide and the Bighorn Sheep Risk of Contact Tool-Supplemental R Package Documentation are available on ASI's website at www.sheepusa.org/IssuesPrograms_Issues_Bighorn.