Article by Todd Helms
A sweeping reintroduction plan to return wild, bighorn sheep to the Sweetwater Rocks of Wyoming is poised for success in the Cowboy State.
“If not for the hand of humans, the sheep would still be there. . . Now our efforts have the power to bring them back and the Sweetwater Rocks is the ideal location.” Matt Hoobler board member of the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation.
The Sweetwater Rocks Initiative has been in the works for decades but the plan has the ability to come to fruition now thanks to many factors that align to make the return of bighorn sheep to this remarkable Wyoming geological feature a reality.
Historically bighorn sheep thrived in this high-elevation region between Casper and Lander. If you’ve ever driven the stretch of highway you’ve doubtless marveled at the granite knuckle like formations jutting up from the ground. Indeed, hundreds of travelers etched their names and dates of passage on the formation’s most iconic mound of rock; Independence Rock. Imagine being able to enjoy wild bighorn sheep in the same area.
There are numerous reasons why this initiative should be passed but perhaps the most important is that the sheep belong there, plain and simple. However, if you need more reason, I give you the following. . .
Sweetwater Rocks Fundamentals
#1. Bighorn sheep are native to the Sweetwater Rocks. Returning wild sheep to the Rocks will create an additional healthy population in Wyoming, provide increased hunting opportunities, and enhance habitats that support numerous species in addition to bighorn sheep.
#2. No federal domestic sheep allotments exist within the 73,101-acre perimeter of the Sweetwater Rocks. The risk of a wandering bighorn sheep outside this perimeter and commingling with domestic sheep has the probability of occurring once every 250 years.
#3. Bighorn sheep on federal land do not alone constitute any special federal actions by their reintroduction or ongoing management. This includes any alterations to cattle grazing leases administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Wyoming BLM State Director Andrew Archuleta supports the reintroduction.
#4. The decision for reintroduction of bighorn sheep rests in the authority of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department lists the Bighorn Sheep a species of Greatest Conservation Need based on the Native Species Status Matrix in the Wyoming State Wildlife Action Plan – 2017.
So how do we as sportsmen make this plan a reality? Contact your area Game and Fish Commissioner and/or attend the next Game and Fish Commission meeting and tell them that bighorn sheep deserve to roam the Sweetwater Rocks once more.