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Projects

Casper – On July 7, the Animal Damage Management Boart (ADMB) met to review $361,000 of projects. By statute, each year the ADMB comes before the Game and Fish Commission to ask for $100,000 in funding, which they did at the Commission’s Sept. 8 meeting.
The funding requested of the Commission is committed to wildlife predator management projects, including a large carnivore depredation and control program, which has received various levels of funding each year. “This funds Wildlife Services to take care of problem large carnivore predators,” said Kent Drake of the ADMB.
Now in its second year, another funded project studies the impact of raven and fox removal on sage grouse in Sweetwater, Uinta and Lincoln counties. “There’s no good data, as it’s in its second year yet,” said Drake of the project.
The Absoraka elk ecology project is a five-and-a-half-year project studying the elk population in Sunlight Basin in Park County, as well as the resident herds around Heart Mountain north of Cody. “This study looks at influences on the populations from predators and other standpoints,” Drake told the Commission, noting that $5,000 of the funding comes from the Commission, while the ADMB puts up $750,000 to fully fund the study.
The Park County Predator Management Board manages the Park County Livestock Carcass Management Program, which is designed to help keep grizzly bears from around the population base and livestock herds. “When an animal dies on a ranch, a producer can ask the predator management board to come remove the carcass,” noted Drake. “The program has been going on for a number of years, and it funds a person to help clean up. Carcasses are deposited at the refuge location for Park County in one central location, and it seems to have been successful.”
New this year is $15,000 requested for a Cedar Mountain targeted predator control project to benefit mule deer. “We’re using this where populations are below objective, conducting pre-fawning activities to reduce the predator population and help the targeted herd respond,” said Drake.
The projects are the ones the Commission’s $100,000 are used for, and ADMB funds are used for a variety of other projects, most benefiting wildlife in Wyoming as well as controlling predators and their effects.
“First is a chemical gun endectomy of the coyote, which is looking at sterilization, and the ADMB also helped fund a new bear trap for the Big Piney region,” said Drake, adding the board is also helping to provide collars for mule deer identification leading to maximization of predator control in the Platte Valley.
The ADMB also provides $14,000 to predator protection for sheep and sheepherders in Upper Green River forests. Drake explained most of that is used for portable electric fencing.
“A couple of others include transferring livestock protection traditions – looking at bringing in guard animals that help in coyote control, and looking at dogs that will protect against wolves,” said Drake.
The ADMB also funds Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom. “The ADMB feels strongly that they’d like to fund predator management education in the state, and they also help with the annual Teacher Rendezvous,” said Drake.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cody — While some bighorn sheep challenges in Wyoming remain, other areas of the state are seeing success and growth in their herds.
    A challenge that remains is the static herd size of the Whiskey Mountain group above Dubois, while a success has been the transplant and growth of a herd to Devil’s Canyon on the west slope of the Big Horn Mountains and the first legal sheep tag issued in northeast Wyoming for the 2009 hunting season.
    There are 16 herd units identified in Wyoming, although some of them don’t currently support any bighorn sheep.
    “Statewide, about 90 percent of bighorns occur in eight core native herds, and the other 10 percent are in seven transplant herds,” says Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Bighorn Sheep Coordinator Kevin Hurley, who’s based in Cody. Those eight core native herds occur in the northwestern quadrant of Wyoming.
    The statewide aggregate objective for bighorn sheep is 8,735, and the current estimate is just over 6,000 sheep. “We’re about a third under where we’d like to be. Are we ever going to get there? I’m not sure,” says Hurley.
    In the Whiskey Mountain herd, which has yet to recover from a die-off in the winter of 1990/1991, the objective is set at twice what the current estimate is.
    “That population was our source for multi-state transplants from 1949 through 1995, and we moved about 1,900 bighorns and placed about 1,500 in-state and 400 went to other Western states,” explains Hurley.
    Hurley says biologists speculate that a high density of bighorns, particularly on winter range, contributes to die-offs. He adds that one way to control populations is through transplants, but there isn’t always a place to go with extra sheep. To remedy that, the Wyoming Legislature in their last session authorized the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to offer reduced ewe/lamb licenses under HB 225.
    “The Department supported it, and it sailed through,” he says. “It won’t be used for the 2010 season because of the way regulations have to follow legislative timelines, but in 2011 we think there will be application and merit to offer some very limited, focused ewe/lamb licenses in certain areas.”
    In addition to population control, ongoing work in Whiskey Basin includes predator control, selenium research and prescribed burns to open up habitat. “There’s still a lot of work underway to get Whiskey Basin back on its feet,” says Hurley.
    In the Laramie Peak area the herd objective is 500 in Area 19, while the estimate is half that. “We took a lot of sheep from Whiskey Basin and put them at Laramie Peak over a 30-year period from the 1950s through the 1970s,” explains Hurley. “They’ve persisted, but not grown steadily.”
    However, he says in the last decade’s prescribed burns and wildfires have opened more habitat to the bighorns, which seems to be helping the population spread and increase.
    Another tactic implemented on Laramie Peak in 2007 is using sheep from areas other than Whiskey Basin to repopulate some of the lower, more arid bighorn sheep habitats.
    “I made arrangements with Montana to transplant 42 bighorns that were, in my view, a better match between the source sheep and target habitat,” says Hurley. “We’re trying to do a better job, instead of having Whiskey Basin as our one and only source, of trying something different that would be a better match for the habitat we’re trying to fill.”
    The same scenario has taken place in the Devil’s Canyon herd above Lovell in Area 12, where 39 sheep were taken from Whiskey Basin in 1973. “They persisted for 30-plus years, but never really grew. Six years ago we took a look and saw good habitat and potential and instead of repeating 35 years ago we tried a different source better adapted to the habitat,” says Hurley.
    Looking for sheep adapted to a dry river canyon or small mountain range in a low precipitation zone and low elevation with a higher percentage of shrubs than grasses for diet, Hurley partnered with Oregon and in December 2004 and moved 20 head from north central Oregon to Devil’s Canyon. Twenty more were moved to the area in January 2006 from the Missouri Breaks area of Montana.
    “That herd has grown from 50 or 60 to three times that,” notes Hurley of the transplant success.
    Taking the domestic sheep allotments on the Bighorn Mountains into account, Hurley says his agency has worked closely to avoid contact with domestic sheep. “The other thing about our source sheep is they’re known to be sedentary instead of migratory,” he says. “We wanted them to imprint and stay home and not pioneer and get into trouble.”
    “We’ve tried for 10 years to do the best job we can of trying to reoccupy historic and still suitable bighorn habitat without forcing or shoving domestic sheep producers on private or public allotments out of the way,” he says of meetings amongst all interested parties.
    In the immediate future another supplemental release is planned for the Seminoes. In December, 20 Oregon sheep will be moved in, and five weeks later 40 more from Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake in Utah, once again matching compatible source sheep to the destination habitat.
    Hurley lists some of the main factors in matching sheep to habitat as green-up of vegetation and lambing chronology. “As in domestic sheep, we want the lactating female to be in peak condition when she drops the lamb. What we think happened at the Seminoes before is we’d get high elevation alpine migratory sheep that were used to lambing in late May/early June and move them down to the Seminoes, which are much lower, hotter and dryer. The lambs were probably dropped when peak green-up was over and the ewes had already started on downhill slide when the lamb was born and they couldn’t nurse them adequately, they weaned them earlier and at a lighter weight and they didn’t make it,” he explains. “What we’re trying for with Oregon and Utah are sheep that lamb earlier so we more closely coincide with peak green-up.”
    In other issues, biologists are weighing the impacts of beetle kill. While the thinning of the trees will expand bighorn habitat, that also means they’ll roam farther and potentially create more conflicts with domestic sheep.
    On a West-wide perspective, there are 14 states with a wild sheep resource, and the issue of contact between domestic and wild sheep is the number one or number two concern in all of them. While Hurley describes Idaho as “ground zero” in separation efforts, the Sierra Nevadas on the Nevada/California border have federally listed the bighorn sheep. That listing comes alongside a multi-generational long-term domestic sheep grazing tradition on the federal lands of the region.
    Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Sublette County – A Sublette County project will make miles of fenceline more friendly to migrating wildlife in the near future.

“Big game in our area will find more than 280 miles of previously-prohibitive fencing passable as they move between seasonal ranges by the end of 2012,” says the Wyoming Land Trust (WLT) of the Corridor Conservation Campaign (CCC). “That makes a real difference, not only for sustaining our wildlife populations, but for our community, as well.”

Wildlife habitat, part of which involves migration routes, is important to the survival of species and faces a number of threats, says the WLT.

“Wildlife have fragmented habitats,” says Rick Pallister of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation on a video detailing the CCC. “They can’t get from one high quality piece of habitat to the next without going through a lot of obstacles.”

The CCC began in 2008 as a five-year program with the goal of building 500 miles of wildlife- and livestock-friendly fencing in Sublette County. These fences are built through key wildlife migration routes through the area.

“We mapped about 110 miles of fences in the first phase of the project, and, of that, 90 percent of the fences had some barrier to wildlife,” says Dave Marshall of KC Harvey, an environmental consulting firm. “We would often find a very low bottom strand. When antelope would try to get underneath, they would struggle.”

Harvey continues, “The fence inventory provided a really clear picture of where the barriers were for wildlife moving and provided a really good planning tool to take to landowners.”

For a fence to be wildlife and livestock friendly, the WLT says, “Fences are generally no more than 42 inches tall, with a smooth bottom wire at least 16 inches off the ground and 10, but preferably 12, inches between the top two wires.”

When the bottom wire is smooth, antelope are allowed to easily travel under the fences without getting caught. Additionally, the space between the top two wires allows wildlife to jump over the fence without their hind legs catching.

The five-year effort was divided into five phases.

Phase one involved modification of about 82 miles of fencing in the historic “Path of the Pronghorn” migration route. The route runs between Grand Teton National Park and Trapper’s Point in Sublette County. Completed in 2009, phase one monitoring efforts use game cameras mounted on the fences to show wildlife passing under and over the fences.

Phase two, which began in 2010, involves the modification of a route nearly 60 miles long for mule deer migrations. Approximately 200 miles of fence will be modified in this area. The Sublette Mule Deer Study, starting in the late 1990s, confirmed the mule deer migration route. At this point, 40 miles of fence have been modified as part of phase two.

The identification of corridors in phases three through five, with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other partners, will move the project forward in the coming years. Currently, migrations in the Ryegrass and Wyoming Range Front areas and areas along the Green River from Trapper’s Point south are potential targets for the continuation of the project.

“We’ve had to revise some timelines with the economic situation,” says Director of Conservation at WLT Jordan Vana. “Overall, things are going well.”

To monitor the success of the project, the WLT looks at the number of miles of modified fences, images from game cameras positioned on the fence and sharing GIS data on modified fence locations. By sharing GIS data, partner organizations are able to overlay radio-collar information and other data to determine whether corridors are being widely travelled and fences do not provide barriers.

WLT begins each part of the project by first identifying migration routes.

“Migration routes are based on sound science and public recognition and appreciation,” says the organization.

Then, with landowner permission, fences are inventoried and agreements for modifications to fences are reached. The fences are targeted as being functional for the landowners, yet friendly to wildlife needs.

The WLT hires fencing contractors through a competitive bid process. One important aspect of this project is that landowners incur no cost in building wildlife friendly fencing.

Finally, agreements are signed with both the contractors and landowners. Landowners are required to maintain the fence for a specified period of time, usually 20 years, according to the WLT.  

The CCC operates with a number of partners from industry and private corporations to environmental groups. The partners include BP, Bank of Sublette County, Bill Barrett Corporation, EnCana Oil and Gas, USA, Environmental Defense Fund, Good Sportsman Marketing, LLC, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Heart of the Rockies Initiative, James Family Foundation, Jonah Interagency Mitigation and Reclamation Office, Mule Deer Foundation, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Pinedale Anticline Project Office, Patagonia, Pope and Young Club, QEP Resources, Inc., Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Proactive Fitness and Rehab Center, Shell, Safari Club International, Teton Motors, Inc., WLC Engineering, Western Governors’ Association, Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, Wyoming Wildlife – The Foundation and private individuals and landowners.

A number of government entities also partner with the project, including the BLM, Bridger-Teton National Forest, UW Haub School and Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, Wyoming Department of Transportation and the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative.

“We need wildlife, and we need wild places. The WLT is working with private landowners, working with the agencies and working with energy companies – taking mitigation dollars, private dollars and some government dollars – and putting it together for something that is fantastic for wildlife,” says Gray Thorton of the Wild Sheep Foundation. “We are protecting areas that need to be protected and ensuring that this corridor is maintained. This is a critical program.”

John Emmerich of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department also comments on the video, “We are actually creating permanent conservation in the sense of maintain these conservation corridors.”

Saige Albert is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – Since its inception in 2000, the Wyoming Statewide Domestic Sheep/Bighorn Sheep Interaction Working Group continues to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to maintain healthy Bighorn sheep populations while sustaining a viable domestic sheep industry in Wyoming.

“This group was convened in 2000 by Governor Jim Geringer and Senator Craig Thomas,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Department Biologist Doug McWhirter. “It has been a long haul, but we have developed a plan and prescribed some management responses as a result.”

The Working Group met on April 25 to discuss ongoing efforts, as well as to open questions and answers for future work by the group.

Working group plan

Beginning in 2000, the group developed a plan over the course of four years to accomplish their goals, which included identifying key Bighorn sheep herds in Wyoming and prioritizing those herds.

“What is important coming out of the plan are the terms of the agreement,” McWhirter emphasized. “We prioritized first. We also came to an agreement on an approach and methods.”

The terms of the agreement indicate priority to protect the domestic sheep industry in Wyoming, such that changes should not be made to grazing allotments without agreement or a sense of urgency or duress.

They aimed toward no net loss of domestic sheep industry animal unit months (AUMs) on allotments in Wyoming, as well.

The roles and goals of the plan have been supported through action over many years, and actions such as movement of allotments, voluntary waivers and transplants of sheep, among other actions, have fostered both the viability of domestic and Bighorn sheep.

West-wide impacts

In the U.S. Forest Service’s Region Four, the Intermountain Region, Chris Iverson emphasized that they are working to be transparent in their efforts to dispel myths and accomplish their goals. 

“We are making an effort to share everything we are doing and to be transparent,” Iverson commented.

Within the Intermountain Region, Iverson noted that a Bighorn Sheep Management Framework is being developed and has been in discussion for nearly a year. 

“We were very conscious that we needed a sound and well-designed framework,” he said.

However, national forests across the country are bound by the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) to provide for diverse wildlife communities. 

“Our statutory and regulatory requirements include maintaining viable populations of desirable species,” Iverson explained. 

Approach

With a regional approach in mind, Iverson noted that they have begun to establish a strategy that protects both Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep in the region.

“We took a regional approach because we wanted to put one team of our best experts together to ensure a consistent process,” he said. “We wanted a measure of efficiency to do the process once with the best team we could put together.”

At the same time, an allotment-by-allotment approach didn’t make sense in terms of scale.

“We wanted to do this on an appropriate scale,” Iverson explained. “We don’t have to maintain viable populations in every project area. Our requirement by the NFMA is to maintain viable populations within the area of the national forest.”

“This has been a complex issue, but the goal of our framework is very similar to the goals of Wyoming’s working group,” he adds. “We want to provide opportunities for sustainable domestic sheep grazing while maintaining viable Bighorn sheep populations and our responsibility under NFMA.”

Engagement and management

Iverson further noted that the Region Four plan aims to engage with Bighorn sheep experts across state lines.

“If we can get information from the state of Wyoming, we are encouraged to seek the state expert in interpreting data,” he said. “The most important part of this whole process is to validate range allotment status.”

The region is also working to assess a wide array of management options to accomplish goals. 

“We have taken a good faith effort in looking at management options,” Iverson continued. “We don’t have to make immediate decisions, so we can take a conscious effort to look at where there are opportunities.”

Region Two

In U.S. Forest Service  Region Two, the Rocky Mountain Region, Brian Ferebee noted that they have the same directive and responsibilities as Region Four, and he said, “We deal with issues in the forest plan revision process.”

While Region Four’s national forest land use plans aren’t due to be started for between five and 15 years, Ferebee noted that several plan revisions are currently in progress in Region Two, including the Shoshone National Forest plan.

“We’ve dealt with litigation on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, and we are still in litigation there,” he commented. “We are anxious to get that decision.”

Allotment use

In their core native herds of Bighorn sheep, Ferebee said their approach has been to look at meeting viability requirements within the forests.

“This doesn’t mean we don’t have allotment issues, but that is where management issues come into play,” he added. “We are looking at maintaining separation and using management options.”

“If it wasn’t for the work that we have done and some of the management actions that have taken place, we might be in a different place in this region, commented Ferebee. “We feel really good about the work this working group has done that we have been able to take advantage of.”

In future editions of the Roundup, look for more on comments of the meeting’s attendees. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Wheatland – Cheyenne attorney Karen Budd-Falen and the Western Legacy Alliance (WLA) keep digging, and the more they dig the more dollars are added to the figure awarded to U.S. environmental groups under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).
“In this issue we’re working with, certain environmental groups are being paid by the federal government to sue the federal government to eliminate you,” Budd-Falen told a group of farmers and ranchers gathered in Wheatland Jan. 22.
EAJA was passed with the premise that if an individual sues the federal government, and wins, and the federal government is determined to have taken an “unjustified position,” then the federal government should pay the attorney’s fees.
“The federal government used to account for the attorney’s fees, and one could see how much money went to who,” noted Budd-Falen, adding, “In 1995 Clinton signed the Paperwork Reduction Act, which said the accounting wasn’t needed, but they kept paying the money.”
There are two basic statutes that fund the lawsuits. The passage of EAJA created a “Judgment Fund,” and between 2003 and 2007 the federal government spent $4.7 billion from that account, which is supplied by taxpayers. The Judgment Fund is an “offline Congressional fund,” which means Congress reauthorizes the fund with no dollar figure attached.
The second funding source EAJA takes money from is the losing agency’s budget.
“It’s a self-perpetuating cycle, and it’s no wonder the agencies can’t get anything done. Their budget is being spent on attorney’s fees,” said Budd-Falen.
“We wrote the Justice Department and asked what the money was spent on,” said Budd-Falen. “They wrote back and said they had no idea. They couldn’t tell us how many suits, by whom they were filed, or the hourly rate paid for attorney’s fees.”
“We figured out through EAJA and the Judgment Fund environmental groups are collecting law fees at $650 per hour for their attorneys to litigate against the federal government,” she added.
Although EAJA caps hourly attorney fees at $125 per hour, the environmental groups have convinced the courts that environmental law is a specialty and they should get paid additional funds, says Budd-Falen.
Additionally, EAJA sets forth a $7 million net worth cap, which means that an individual or business worth more than $7 million doesn’t qualify for attorney’s fees.
“But if you’re a ‘non-profit’ like the Sierra Club, there’s no qualifying cap,” explained Budd-Falen. “At last count, Sierra Club’s net worth was $100 million, but they can get attorney’s fees because they’re ‘non-profit public interest.’”
Budd-Falen added the president of the Environmental Defense Fund makes $500,000 per year, while the Natural Resources Defense Council president takes home $432,000.
“The real killer is these groups aren’t suing over whether a species should be listed, but rather over procedure,” said Budd-Falen of the cases that take issue with the federal government’s failure to deliver 90-day findings on the multiple petitions to list. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gets hundreds of petitions, and can’t get them done in 90 days. They wait until day 91, sue in federal court and get their money back.”
According to Budd-Falen, the grand total of tax dollars awarded under EAJA, including attorney’s fees and court-ordered “donations” to environmental groups by both private industry and the federal government, comes to $41,870,398. And that doesn’t include an estimate of the one-third of cases in which the settlement is undisclosed.
“That’s your tax dollars,” she noted. “And an amazing waste of money to a bunch of groups that don’t care about the environment and won’t say they’re capitalists.”
The $41.8 million payment includes 20 states and 14 environmental groups, including the Wyoming Outdoor Council. Of the 1,269 total cases filed, there were 579 in which attorney’s fees were paid and 55 of those indicate attorney’s fees were paid, with no figure on how much.
Of the $41.8 million, the federal government paid up $37,154,410, while private companies contributed $4,156,488 – $555,000 of that ordered for straight donations to environmental groups.
“Until we started attaching actual dollars to EAJA, nobody paid much attention,” said Budd-Falen. “When we attached dollars, we got traction.”
Wyoming has had 14 cases filed by the Wyoming Outdoor Council in the last nine years, and $187,000 has been paid for attorney’s fees in the state. In that same time period two environmental groups in Washington State have received $2,730,000, while groups in Oregon have been paid $4,278,000, plus requirements that the federal government make $523,500 in donations.
“That’s blackmail,” said Budd-Falen. “And the federal government’s agreeing to it. Your tax dollars are being blackmailed.”
She said Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis is expected to bring a bill, along with two Democratic and one Republican House member, to Congress by mid-February to address EAJA.
“Their bill will deal with the accountability part of the problem,” said Budd-Falen. “It would force the federal government to track and publish the numbers. It will shed public light on how much money we’re talking about.”
The WLA is also continuing work on the Eco Cowboy Program, which is a reality series that began filming in Arizona and will cover the EAJA issue and ranchers in the West. It’s expected to air in Fall 2010.
Another project focuses on correcting misinformation spread from environmental groups following court decisions.
“If you read the press releases from the environmental groups about what the court does, and the actual court decision, you’d think you’re reading two different things,” said Budd-Falen. “They don’t just shorten the decision for the press release.”
To set things right, WLA has a public relations person on staff who reads the court decisions and the environmental groups’ press releases, then issues information to clarify what really happened.
“They’re trying to get some of that accurate information out, because the general public reads the press releases and doesn’t know the difference,” said Budd-Falen.
For more information on WLA, visit www.westernlegacyalliance.org. Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..