Bridger-Teton National Forest seeks public comment on proposed Forest Plan Amendment
45-Day comment period for management of bighorn sheep and domestic sheep & goat grazing
by Bridger-Teton National Forest
April 21, 2021
(4/21/2021) - The Bridger-Teton National Forest is proposing to amend the Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) Land and Resource Management Plan (Forest Plan, 1990) concerning the management of bighorn sheep. The Forest Plan currently contains one "standard" specific to bighorn sheep, which focuses entirely on the Darby Herd, reintroduced in 1981; however, this standard does not provide landscape scale protections for the Forest’s bighorn sheep population.
The Forest is beginning scoping for the proposed amendment to the Forest Plan. Scoping is the phase where public input is most influential to the design and development of this proposal. Comments concerning this proposal must be postmarked or received within 45 calendar days after publication of the legal notice, and all comments received will be part of the official record.
"We know that disease outbreak is a threat to bighorn sheep herds and separation of bighorn sheep from domestic sheep and goats as an important management tool for the Forest," said Deputy Forest Supervisor Kevin Khung. "The Forest is initiating the development of a plan amendment based on the need to change the Forest Plan to promote separation for core, native herds and to ensure the viability of bighorn sheep on the Forest," he said.
The Jackson North, Jackson South, Whiskey Mountain, Targhee, and Absaroka herds occur on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. These herds are all considered core, native herds and their protection is emphasized by the state. The Darby Herd also exists on the Forest and it is a reintroduced herd of bighorn sheep. Currently, the Forest Plan direction for bighorn sheep management only addresses the Darby herd and the Forest Plan standard is vague and open to interpretation since there is no geographic delineation of where this standard applies. Additionally, the standard does not apply to core, native bighorn sheep herds which are the State’s highest priority areas for bighorn sheep management.
The BTNF proposes to delete the 1990 Forest Plan standard that states: Reintroduction Areas of Bighorn Sheep Range Standard- On Darby Mountain and Fish Creek in the Big Piney Ranger District where bighorn sheep have been reintroduced, all development activities will be excluded and domestic sheep will not be restocked.
The current Forest Plan standard would be replaced with the Bighorn Sheep Conservation Standard – Domestic sheep and goats will not be restocked on allotments that overlap core, native bighorn sheep home ranges as delineated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
This plan amendment is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA, 40 CFR 1500), the National Environmental Policy Act Compliance (36 CFR 220) and the National Forest System Land Management Planning and the Pre-decisional Administrative Review Process (2012 Planning Rule, 36 CFR 219 Subpart A and B). The BTNF anticipates preparing an environmental assessment (EA), including the release of a draft EA and an associated designated opportunity to comment. While comments will be accepted at any time during the planning process, to establish standing for eligibility to object, substantive comments must be received during a designated opportunity to comment (36 CFR 219.53(a)).
Electronic comments should be submitted online on the Forest webpage at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=58509. Click on the "Comment/Object on Project" link located in the right column.
Written comments may be submitted to:
Forest Supervisor Patricia O’Connor
Bridger-Teton National Forest
P.O. Box 1888
Jackson, Wyoming 83001
The Bridger-Teton NF is not accepting hand-delivered comments currently due to limited office functions as part of precautions in response to the coronavirus. Those who respond to this request for comments will remain on the mailing list for this planning effort.
For information on the Forest, please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/btnf/. Follow the Bridger-Teton National Forest on Facebook @BridgerTetonNF or on Twitter @BridgerTetonNF.