When Rancher Frank Robbins had his cattle leases revoked a few years back, he decided to run sheep on his property instead. But now his animals are trespassing into the habitat of the state’s largest bighorn sheep herd, exposing them to pneumonia which is deadly in bighorns. Advocates on both sides say that while Robbins may be using the situation to pressure the Bureau of Land Management to return his cattle leases, the agency is also at fault. Kevin Hurley is director of the Wild Sheep Foundation.
“We’re aware of trespassing livestock use on BLM land and frankly, a lot of us on all sides of the issue are not satisfied with the response that’s been provided by the management at the Worland BLM office. We think there’s somewhat of a blind eye being turned.”
Recently, a BLM employee was even suspended for insubordination after he encouraged a Wyoming Game and Fish employee to document the trespassing. Hurley says the BLM is spinning its wheels by neither confronting Robbins directly or giving him back his cattle leases.
Wyoming Stockgrower’s Vice President Jim Magagna agrees. He says they need to move faster, or Robbin’s sheep may put the whole bighorn herd at risk.
“He has elected to graze domestic sheep in some of the upper parts of it which puts those sheep within an area of potential contact with the bighorns.”
Magagna points out that Wyoming is lucky to be one of the only states with a domestic sheep/bighorn working plan that’s successfully kept the two species apart, until now. He says the situation with Robbins is unusual since, for the most part, ranchers and wild sheep advocates are willing to cooperate to protect the bighorns.