Federal mineral leasing has increased under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. But it looks like he has a soft spot for bighorn sheep. Last week, the Department of Interior announced plans to renew a mineral withdrawal for the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep. A mineral withdrawal limits mining activity.
The herd’s range which is near Dubois would be protected for the next 20 years. Steve Kilpatrick, the executive director of the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation, said these sheep were once one of the larger herds in the lower 48.
“Some 1,900 sheep were captured and transferred to other parts of the U.S. and Wyoming so it was renown, the most important herd of the lower 48,” he said.
But a die off in the early 1990’s cut the herd in half and it has been struggling ever since. Kilpatrick said habitat is as important as groceries for humans.
“If you're not doing well health wise your diet is critical,” said Kilpatrick. “So, we want to maintain the greatest quantity and quality of groceries for these sheep and if it were not withdrawn, their groceries would be compromised.”
The Bureau of Land Management will be taking comments on the proposal through July 25.