Public Comments Encouraged on GTNP Bighorn Sheep Protections

Recommendations from the Teton Bighorn Sheep Working group on Winter Recreation are being considered for the Grand Teton National Park. Comments are due May 20th.
26
Apr

Grand Teton National Park Public Comment on Bighorn Sheep Winter Habitat Protection

Public comments encouraged for bighorn sheep winter habitat protection environmental assessment

MOOSE, WY— Grand Teton National Park is developing an environmental assessment to consider implementing additional management strategies to protect bighorn sheep winter habitat within the park. The public is encouraged to comment on the proposed actions by May 20, 2022.

Bighorn sheep have occupied the Teton Mountain Range for thousands of years, but today this native population is small, isolated from other nearby populations, and at risk of local extinction. Since the 1990s, management of the herd and its habitat has been coordinated between Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Bridger-Teton National Forest, and Caribou-Targhee National Forest, as the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group. The Working Group identified bighorn sheep population threats from habitat loss, disease, non-native mountain goats, and disturbance from backcountry winter recreation.

In an ongoing effort to conserve and protect the bighorn sheep within Grand Teton National Park, the park is proposing additional actions beyond the current 2019 Mountain Goat Management Plan implementation. Based on emerging science, recommendations from the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group, and changing conditions on the ground, the National Park Service is considering other visitor and resource management actions to conserve this small, native population of bighorn sheep within the park, while providing backcountry winter recreation opportunities.

Alternatives will consider visitor management and education strategies for protection of bighorn sheep as recommended by the Teton Range Bighorn Sheep Working Group, including increased public outreach and education, signage, enhanced monitoring of both bighorn sheep and recreational use, new or expanded winter closures in specific areas, and designated travel routes, among other actions. Action is needed at this time to address emerging issues related to increases in winter backcountry visitor use patterns in winter bighorn sheep habitat and the new and growing body of research that demonstrates that winter recreation can disturb and harm wintering ungulates, including bighorn sheep. The primary aim is to provide secure winter habitat for bighorn sheep so they can spend the winter in disturbance free zones, while also providing backcountry winter recreation opportunities. 

At this time, during the scoping period, the National Park Service seeks input from the public on the components of these strategies. 

A scoping newsletter and other information is available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/bighorn_habitat. A copy of the newsletter and additional information can be downloaded through this website and comments can be provided electronically online.

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