New environmental impact statement underway for bighorn sheep in east Cascades

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Washington is taking proactive measures to ensure bighorn sheep have enough room to roam by reviewing individual grazing allotments in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in the east Cascades. Here, about half of the state’s bighorn sheep spend the majority of their time. However, it’s also where seven active grazing allotments and several hobby farms for domestic sheep are located, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.

As GOHUNT has previously reported, bighorn sheep herds have faced massive die-offs across the West due to a bacterial pneumonia. That disease originates in domestic herds and is spread when wild sheep mix with domestic sheep.

In 2019, the U.S. Forest Service began reviewing the grazing allotments, but stopped due to a lawsuit filed by multiple wildlife advocacy groups “over the risks” grazing posed to bighorn sheep. A recent settlement means that the Forest Service will begin where it left off and, according to Stacy Lundgren, will modify the review slightly by  looking “at the geography of the grazing allotments and timing of where the sheep are on the landscape.” 

Yet those who are want immediate action like Greg Dyston, the conservation director with Wild Earth Guardians, say that federal officials “have known about the problem for more than a decade.”

“They’re knowingly allowing domestic sheep grazing in this bighorn habitat. They know the results. There's no question on the science,” said Dyston.

The draft environmental impact statement should be completed in December with a final decision expected in the spring of 2025


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