Monday, January 18, 2010
FWP Approves Montana's First Bighorn Management Plan
FWP Commissioners approved what seems to me a much overdo state-wide management plan for bighorn sheep. Biologists say about 5700 bighorns in 45 herds scattered across the state could be expanded by as many as 1000.
As with just about everything involves Montana wildlife, or anything else for that matter, the news received enthusiastic boorahs from some and loud boos from others; still others on both sides the fence took a more cautious wait and see approach. No news there, eh?
The biggest hurdle to expanding the bighorns' range is the very real hazard the wild sheep come in contact with domestics--which carry a lung infection fatal to wild sheep but harmless to the carriers. Wool growers are of course concerned about losing public land grazing leases. But there is a line in the plan says FWP will not lobby federal land managers to remove domestics to enable bighorn expansion unless ranchers involved are on board. Quentin Kujula, FWP's biologist point man on such issues says, "Without that collaboration expansion is pretty much dead in the water in most cases."
The Safari Club has gone on record as feeling the plan does little but maintain the status quo...in other words hardly worth the paper it's printed.
John Helle, major domo Dillon wool-man, says, "We're not opposed to wild sheep just the propaganda and attempts to remove us from lands we've been ranching for generations.
Jim Weatherly, Montana Wild Sheep Foundation, basically approves the idea, adding concerns for needing rancher approval are largely unfounded since given how much land they control expansion is impossible without it.
And the beat goes on...