Disease ridden domestic sheep killed off the bighorn in early 1900s and pose the same disease barrier today-

As has been written so many times, domestic sheep are full of diseases that are fatal to their wild cousin, the bighorn. Now plans to restore the mighty bighorn to the rugged Bridger Mountains to the northeast of Bozeman have been put on hold until the disease problem can be solved.

Domestic sheep don’t live in the Bridgers, but they they are present in country within 12 miles, the Montana rule of thumb as minimum distance that is safe for bighorn to live. While the big majority commenting on the plan for reintroduction wanted the bighorn, some of the sheep owners refused to take action to keep their sheep away from a reintroduced herd.

The economy and mentality of the early 20th Century has won out again for the foreseeable future.

Story: Bighorn sheep reintroduction bypassed for now. By Laura Lundquist. Bozeman  Chronicle Staff Writer

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is past President of the Western Watersheds Project and the creator of The Wildlife News.

9 Responses to Presence of nearby domestic sheep ends plan to reintroduce bighorn to Bridger Mountains north of Bozeman

  1. avatar Seb says:

    It is sad to find that the reintroduction programme does not enjoy cooperation from the domestic sheep owners in the area. Unfortunate that some people are not yet realising the need to help bring back wild species.

  2. avatar Ellen Mass says:

    and once again, ranchers with the money pull win against NATIVE wildlife!

  3. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    I’m a big fan of GIS mapping technology , where all manner of data can be converted to geospatial overlays and placed in layers on standard maps. GIS is–or should be in the more backward communities – revolutionizing land use, range convervation , and political decision making about the whole spectrum of land management , public and private. With GIS you can see the Big Picture, rather unambiguously. It can even be put ” in motion” to observe interactions and dynamics. Best yet, you can fold in the historical stuff on a timeline.

    So—who at MSU or any of those intellectual NGO activist groups has done some polished GIS on the Bighorn wild sheep vs. Domestic sheep interaction , for all to see ?

    That would be helpful. Show us the existing Bighorn populations and ranges, and show us the domestic sheep ops and grazing allotments. Use nice sharp maps and color between the lines for the benefit of those intellectually challenged Stetson drivers.

    Methinks the arguments presented as GIS maps might be quite dissuasive to the co-mingling of wild and domestic sheep. or at least make it harder to approve with a straight face.

  4. avatar Ida Lupine says:

    What a shame.

  5. avatar Nancy says:

    “Use nice sharp maps and color between the lines for the benefit of those intellectually challenged Stetson drivers”

    🙂 🙂 🙂

  6. avatar Leslie says:

    Ralph, your post on federal grazing leases was illuminating. I am still trying to understand what happens when a rancher sells his land. I understand he can sell the grazing lease along with it if he chooses at fair market value. Correct? How does this work?

    • avatar Elk275 says:

      Federal grazing leases can also be used as collateral with FDIC lending institutions.

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      You are referring to a “grazing preference”, which is attached to a property and gives the owner of a particular base property a preference for a specific grazing allotment. Usually whenever a base property is sold the grazing preference goes along with it. There are all kinds of requirements for base properties but sometimes these are not met and sometimes a permittee can lose control of a base property but still keep a permit even though it is not allowed.

      The permittee never really “owns” the allotment or the grazing preference and they can lose it although it is practically unheard of.


December 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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