Thoughts and Updates from WY-WSF Board President, Zach McDermott.
As we all move through life, we know we cannot go through it alone. Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation is no different even though we have but one mission in mind “Putting and Keeping Wild Sheep on the Mountain.”
The partnerships we established have been very instrumental in the success of generating funding for Bighorn Sheep. One of our main partnerships began in 2003 with the Wyoming Big Game License Coalition and the establishing of 5 Governor bighorn sheep tags to be auctioned or raffled off annually. Since inception, the Bighorn Sheep Governor tags have generated over $5 million in revenue. The goals of the funding focus on Habitat, Disease, Transplants, Conservation Education and ultimately restoring, enhancing, and maintaining bighorn sheep populations in Wyoming. This revenue was key to the allotment buyouts that occurred in the early 2000’s, preserving Bighorn sheep habitat and the herds themselves.
Through the sales and distribution of these Governor tags to other organizations, it has helped WYWSF establish key relationships with 3 Wild Sheep Chapters, all of whom do not have Bighorn Sheep in their state. The Eastern, Iowa and Midwest Chapters have all played a significant role in achieving the Bighorn Sheep goals set forth by WYWSF and the Big Game License Coalition. Each Chapter has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Wyoming and adopted specific herds.
In 2018, the Eastern Chapter of Wild Sheep adopted both the Devil’s Canyon and Ferris-Seminoe herds. They have been instrumental in providing funding for the testing, capturing, and transplanting of bighorns from Devil’s Canyon to the Ferris-Seminoe Mountains. With that help, the Ferris-Seminoe herd has thrived and has met the population objective set forth by the WY G&F. Not only has the area produced population, but also genetics for Big Rams!!
Also in 2018, Iowa FNAWS adopted the Teton Range herd. Iowa provided the initial funding of $12,500 to kick off the workings of the Teton Bighorn Sheep Working Group. The group was assembled to capture, analyze, and research the sheep and their habitat in the Teton Range year-round as the population size continued to decrease due to Mountain Goats and Winter Recreation. Ultimately, making recommendations to Grand Teton National Park and WY G&F on how best to proceed with saving this iconic herd. Since, this has led to the removal of Mountain Goats and the winter recreation closures in critical bighorn habitat ranges.
In 2019, the Midwest Chapter adopted the Whisky Basin herd and helped kick off the funding effort to create the Whiskey Basin Bighorn Sheep plan. The plan was generated through the collaboration of scientific experts assembled to identify the issues at hand and to provide action items and the research need for the individual issues. The key issues included Health/Disease, Habitat/Nutrition, and population management. The Plan has since been adopted by WY G&F and the recommendations of the panel are being implemented to help the Whiskey Mountain bighorns. Since the beginning ideas of the plan, $1.6 million has been generated for research and enhancement. The Midwest Chapter has played a significant role in raising those funds.
A special thank you to these Chapters for their partnerships, commitment and the great relationships we have been able to build with their organization and people.
Ultimately, we all need to ask ourselves: Why are we here and what kind of legacy do we want to leave behind? For WY Wild Sheep, it’s about one thing – Bighorn Sheep, putting more on the landscape and doing everything possible to ensure Wyoming’s Bighorns thrive and flourish for generations to come.