Bighorn sheep viability addressed
The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest is planning to update the way it manages domestic sheep and goat grazing in areas occupied by bighorn sheep, to better provide for viability of bighorn sheep populations.
The U.S. Forest Service has initiated scoping for an environmental impact statement (EIS) that would update existing forest plans throughout the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest to identify which existing grazing allotment are suitable or unsuitable for domestic sheep and goat grazing, and to develop site-specific allotment management plans.
Washington state has 17 bighorn sheep herds that inhabit grassy mountain slopes, canyon lands and foothill county in the central and eastern area of the state. Ten of those herds use habitat within the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Since the early 2000s, the Forest Service has been working to address the interaction between domestic sheep grazing and bighorn sheep population viability on national forest lands. The forest initially filed notice of intent to begin an EIS on the grazing allotment planning in 2019. The new EIS process announced on Feb. 22 restarts scoping for the project.
The project entails two parts — forest plan revisions and site-specific allotment analyses, said Deborah Kelly, public affairs specialist for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
“The forest plan revisions part would be applicable to all current and future allotments. For the site-specific analyses part, we’re only looking at currently active sheep grazing allotments plus one currently vacant allotment,” Kelly said.
None of the specific allotments to be analyzed are on the Methow Valley Ranger District, she said. They are located on the Wenatchee River, Entiat, Cle Elum and Naches Ranger districts.
A public comment period on the project is open through April 3. For information on the project or to submit comments, go to the project page at: fs.usda.gov/project/?project=53257. A draft EIS is expected in December 2023, followed by a 90-day comment period.