Zion National Park and UDWR to Manage Bighorn Sheep.
Zion National Park, in conjunction with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), propose management of desert bighorn sheep within the Park. Desert bighorn, a native species, were previously extirpated and reintroduced to the Park in 1973, and have grown to a herd size of more than 800 animals within their habitat on and off of Zion National Park. Since the population exists both within and outside the Park, UDWR may perform management actions both inside and outside of the Park; however, this proposal will focus on management actions within the Park, including within wilderness.
Disease is one of the foremost concerns in bighorn sheep management. Contact between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep or goats (all of which are behaviorally attracted to each other) can lead to outbreaks of respiratory disease and may have long-term impacts on population levels of bighorn sheep. Population declines have also occurred in the apparent absence of contact with domestic sheep or goats. Such declines have been attributed to various factors including disease transmission from adjacent bighorn herds, high densities and related nutritional issues, human disturbance, loss of habitat, weather conditions, and infection with parasites such as lungworm or mites. Active desert bighorn sheep management is considered necessary to reduce risk of disease transmission and catastrophic die-offs of bighorn populations.
The objective of this proposal is to protect the established Zion bighorn sheep population to reduce the risk of disease transmission and support the statewide population. Most commonly, bighorn sheep population numbers are managed through hunting or using transplant efforts in order to reduce localized densities. Hunting is not a legislated purpose of the Park. However, the capture and transfer process is one potential management option. The frequency and number of bighorn captured would typically vary between 20 and 80 sheep for each transplant effort, but would be variable and dependent on local conditions, herd demographics, and the agency level of concern about disease transmission. These bighorn would be transplanted to supplement an existing small herd or start a new population.
The Park has prepared an Environmental Assessment (EA) in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to provide a decision-making framework that explores a reasonable range of alternatives to meet project objectives, evaluates potential issues and impacts to Park resources and values, and identifies mitigation measures to lessen the degree or extent of these impacts.
This EA evaluates two alternatives; a no-action alternative and an action alternative. The no-action alternative describes the current condition if no management occurred, and the second describes transplanting sheep from the park using helicopters, and other management techniques.
The NPS encourages public participation during the NEPA process. At this time, we invite you to make substantive comments and to express concerns regarding bighorn sheep management in Zion National Park.
The public review and comment period begins Aug 25th, 2017 amd extends untli September 25th, 2017.
We prefer to receive your comments by submitting them online to http://parkplanning.nps.gov/zion
or mail them to: Superintendent, Attention: Bighorn Management EA, Zion National Park, Springdale, UT 84767.
Cassity Bromley, 435 772 0188
Janice Stroud-Settles, 435-772-0212