Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) is working on an environmental study to determine whether it can implement additional management strategies to protect the bighorn sheep’s winter habitat inside the park.
The public is invited to voice their opinions on the proposed action by May 20, 2022.
Bighorn sheep have occupied the Teton Mountain Range for thousands of years. However, the current population is tiny and isolated from the other populations in the vicinity and in danger of local extinction.
Since the 1990s, the management of the herd and the habitat has been coordinated by Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest as the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group.
The Working Group identified bighorn sheep populations at risk due to habitat loss, diseases, non-native mountain goats, and backcountry winter-related disturbances.
The park recommends additional measures beyond the current 2019 Mountain Goat Management Plan implementation.
Based on the latest research, the recommendations of the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group, and changes in the conditions on the ground, the National Park Service is considering additional resource and visitor management measures to protect the tiny indigenous population of bighorn sheep while offering backcountry winter recreation opportunities.
Alternatives will be based on the management of visitors and educational strategies, as suggested by the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group.
It includes an increased outreach to the public and education, signage, improved surveillance of bighorn sheep and recreational use, new or extended winter closures in certain areas, and designated travel routes, among other actions.
Action is needed to address emerging issues related to the increase in winter backcountry usage patterns in the bighorn sheep winter habitat and the growing evidence that winter activities can disrupt and harm wintering ungulates such as bighorn sheep, according to a report.
The goal is to provide a safe winter habitat for bighorn sheep to live their winter without disturbance and provide outdoor winter recreation options in the backcountry.
At present, during the scoping period, the National Park Service seeks input from the public regarding the aspects of these strategies.
A scoping newsletter and other information are available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/bighorn_habitat.