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2020 Year in Review

February 15, 2021
posted in: News


At the turn of the New Year, there was certainly a lot of sentiment around “goodbye 2020 and good riddance.” Understandable given the challenges we all faced. Still, for WSF and wild sheep conservation there were several milestones and success stories that took place as we all powered through this past year. Here are a few noteworthy headlines worth reflection as we roll our sleeves up for 2021.
Mission Focus
Our purpose of Putting and Keeping Wild Sheep on the Mountain® saw some positive results from some hard-fought initiatives.
Montana Groups working toward establishing a new bighorn sheep population in the Bridger Mountain Range
Jan. 8, 2020. After three years of collaborative efforts between the Montana Wild Sheep Foundation and the Montana Wool Growers Association, establishing a new bighorn sheep population in the Bridger Mountains east of Bozeman took another step forward. COMPLETE STORY

Wild Sheep Foundation Applauds New Nevada Desert Bighorn Population
Jan. 27, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) today acknowledged the efforts of the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), the leadership of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, and WSF Affiliate Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU) for a recent trap and transplant of bighorn sheep. The result was the establishment of a new population in an area that has not been home to this iconic game species for over 100 years. COMPLETE STORY

British Columbia’s Cassiar Stone’s Sheep Project
April 3, 2020. The world has certainly changed over the past several months since our November 2019 update. COVID-19 is now a household topic that is affecting all our lives here in BC, Canada and the world. Despite this, our sheep are oblivious to the human outcomes, and so our project continues to collect data about their lives and things that are important or that affect them; we are fortunate in that regard. COMPLETE STORY
Wild Sheep Foundation Acknowledges 84th Anniversary of Nevada’s Desert National Wildlife Refuge with Concerns
May 19, 2020. Established on May 20, 1936, Nevada’s Desert National Wildlife Refuge (DNWR) is the largest national wildlife refuge outside of Alaska, encompassing 1.6 million acres, located just North of Las Vegas. Over 1.3 million acres is proposed wilderness and has been managed as such since 1974. It is home to a vast diversity of flora and fauna, including desert bighorn sheep. COMPLETE STORY
UPDATE: Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
June 9, 2020, Chairman, Peregrine Wolff, Brett Jefferson, Greg Schildwachter and Gray Thornton held a productive call with Senator Cortez Masto (NV-D).  The purpose of the call was to move us into a closer working relationship.  The senator has been active on our priority issue for the year of solving our problems with the Air Force on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge.  She also has a history with the Fraternity of the Desert Bighorn, where her father was an active member. 

WSF LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS UPDATE: National Desert Wildlife Refuge, Nevada
June. 12, 2020. The U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee this week refused a proposal to expand military use of Nevada's Desert National Wildlife Refuge.
For the past five years WSF's has been working with all stakeholders and policymakers regarding the Air Force's proposal to replace the expiring authority they currently have to train on 50% the refuge, with a permanent transfer to their authority to include 75% of the refuge – an additional 260,000 acres. Refuge lands are used by the Air Force over the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) from Nellis and Creech Air Force Bases. COMPLETE STORY
Montana Wild Sheep Restoration Progressing
Aug. 14, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) today announced a historic day for wild sheep in Montana. Two new trap and transplant projects were approved by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MTFWP), for the Little Belt and Tendoy Mountain Ranges, as well as a conservation easement agreement in prime bighorn sheep habitat. COMPLETE STORY

MISSION FUNDING: FY2020-21 Grant-in-Aid Projects
Oct. 10, 2020. For our 2020-2021 fiscal year, our biologist staff and volunteer conservation experts have evaluated and prioritized twenty-nine different boots-on-the-ground projects to fund. Each was selected to ensure measurable and tangible results for our priorities to enhance wild sheep habitat and restore wild sheep into those habitats.

Phase Two of Fixing the Desert National Wildlife Refuge Begins
Dec. 18, 2020. The years of labor that Nevada wild sheep advocates and WSF have put into Desert National Wildlife Refuge now has the best opportunity in decades to pay off. COMPLETE STORY

Montana Wild Sheep Restoration Effort a Success
Dec. 28, 2020. Today, wild sheep advocates are celebrating a successful trap and transfer and the establishment of a new bighorn population in Montana's Little Belt Mountains, which occurred this past Tuesday and Wednesday. COMPLETE STORY

Strategic Plartnerships
It’s no secret that successful conservation actions today can hinge on the formation of new alliances and strategic partnerships. In 2020, WSF was blessed with both.
Wild Sheep Foundation signs historic MOU with the Government of Mongolia 
Feb. 3, 2020. During its annual Conservation and Hunting Expo, the Wild Sheep Foundation today announced the joint signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the government of Mongolia. Its purpose is to advance efforts in directing dedicated funding to new conservation programs in these countries for mountain sheep species and engaging local people in conservation efforts. Additionally, WSF and Safari Club International Foundation have signed similar MOUs with Kazakhstan and are close to finalizing a MOU with Tajikistan. COMPLETE STORY

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund
Jan 6, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation today acknowledged a generous grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund that will be directed to three specific projects and one youth program including:
Installation of a new guzzler (water development) to benefit desert bighorn sheep and other desert-dwelling wildlife
Refurbishment of two existing water developments in southeast Arizona, also benefiting desert bighorns, mule deer, quail, javelina and numerous other species
Stone’s sheep health surveillance study in northern British Columbia
Matching Grant Approved for Two New Montana Wild Sheep Restoration Projects
Oct. 23, 2020 After years of behind-the-scenes meetings, discussions, new partnerships, and handshakes, these new populations are about to become a reality. Still, there was one more domino that needed to fall, necessary funding. 
Our friends at the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund graciously agreed to match all donations, dollar for dollar, up to $30,000 toward each project. With a goal of 120,000 ($60,000 per project), with the help of this matching grant, this goal was reached and surpassed in less than 30 days into a 60-day campaign.
YETI Presents Wild Sheep
Nov. 13, 2020. YETI and the Wild Sheep Foundation are pleased to present WILD SHEEP, a spectacularly illustrated book on an iconic species, the unspoiled high countries they live in, and the men and women captivated by their existence.
YETI presented WSF with 250 deluxe editions for sale, each with a chance to win a Yukon Dall’s or Fannin sheep hunt. All 250 copies sold out in 24 hours putting $47,190 in the envelope for wild sheep conservation. COMPLETE STORY

WSF Weighing in and Being Heard
WSF; Be Heard on Expanding Hunting and Fishing Opportunities on Wildlife Refuges
April 14, 2020. This past week, Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, briefed members of the conservation community on his proposal to expand hunting and fishing opportunities of select wildlife refuges and a few fish hatchery lands. The Secretary’s 2020 Hunt–Fish Rule would open an additional 2.3 million acres of refuge lands, some of which have never been open to hunting or angling, adding to the 1.4 million acres the Department of the Interior (DOI) opened in 2019.
The 2020 Hunt-Fish Rule now goes into a 60-day public comment period, available at this

Open Letter to World Health Organization and United Nations Environment Programme
April 28, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation joined an international coalition of wildlife and habitat conservation organizations in sending a unified message to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programme encouraging equitable and sustainable solutions when formulating new global policies to improve human and planetary health when addressing future zoonotic pandemics. COMPLETE STORY 
WSF Expresses Concern of Thar Culling in New Zealand
July 9, 2020
WSF sends a letter to the New Zealand Department of Conservation
Dear Minister Sage: 
On behalf of the 8,500 international members of the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), please accept this letter of concern about the recent New Zealand Department of Conservation (NZ DOC) proposal to cull thousands of tahr, via nearly 400 hours of lethal removal by helicopter. 
WSF recognizes that tahr was introduced to New Zealand’s mountains more than a century ago. WSF further recognizes that tahr do not compete for forage with or pose disease risks to other mountain ungulates in New Zealand. WSF strongly recommends the proposed tahr cull be postponed while a collaborative, multi-interest stakeholder group, including hunting and outfitting interests, critically reviews and updates the 1993 Himalayan Tahr Control Plan. 

Sportsmen Call on Presidential Candidates; Deliver Wildlife for the 21st Century, Volume VI
July 15, 2020.  Wildlife for the 21st Century - Volume VI (W21) presents the challenges and recommendations sportsmen urge the new administration and Congress to address. These are the pressing issues facing wildlife conservation and our sporting heritage. Each recommendation is based on sound science and builds on the historical achievements of hunter-conservationists in making this country's wildlife resources as healthy and vibrant as possible, for all citizens. COMPLETE STORY
Wild Sheep Foundation; LWCF a Win for Conservation
May 27, 2020. This past week, Montana Senator Steve Daines announced that the U.S. Senate would be voting on his bipartisan bill, the Great American Outdoors Act when the Senate returns from the state working period in June. Daines’ bill requires full, mandatory funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually. It also helps fix the $11.9 billion maintenance backlog facing national parks across the nation, including over $700 million in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. COMPLETE STORY
The Wild Sheep Family
Our Family had its share of highs and lows. Most of our Chapters & Affiliates had to pivot on their annual banquets, and fund-raising events and our guide and outfitting partners, especially North of the border, saw some tough sledding. Fortunately, the loyalty and generosity of our Family won the day.
Wounded Warriors Outdoors & WSF
Mar. 16, 2020. WSF staffers Paige Culver and Sam Sposito had the privilege of attending the 2020 Wounded Warrior Outdoors Heritage Classic in Winter Garden, Florida.
“This event is far more than a fundraiser,” explained Paige Culver, Development Manager for WSF. “There is an indescribable magic that takes place here. It’s a place of friendship, competition, humility and unmeasurable generosity.” COMPLETE STORY
WSF’s Clay Brewer Wins DSC Conservation Trailblazer Award
Oct. 21, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) congratulates one of its own, Clay Brewer, for winning the first-ever Dallas Safari Club (DSC) Conservation Trailblazer Award. 
“When one thinks of the incredible comeback of desert bighorn sheep in the Lone Star State, one name comes to mind first and foremost – Clay Brewer,” said Gray N. Thornton, president, and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation.  “Humble, capable, innovative, tireless, and always passing credit he should earn onto others.” COMPLETE STORY

Wild Sheep Family Mourns Loss
Aug. 11, 2020. Three Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) employees tragically lost their lives on August 8 in a helicopter crash while conducting bighorn sheep surveys on the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area in Brewster Country, Texas. 
The crash claimed the lives of Wildlife Biologist Dewey Stockbridge, Fish and Wildlife Technician Brandon White, and State Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Bob Dittmar. The pilot, the only survivor, was transported to a hospital in El Paso. COMPLETE STORY
What Next for Wildlife Conservation?
WSF Releases Video Statement on the Pandemic’s Effect on Wildlife Conservation and the Outfitting Industry
May 5, 2020. These are tough and unprecedented times for sure, and we won't see or feel the collateral damage to this system for months to come.  Our conservation model and our people are going to take a hit. How big of a hit is up to us and the decisions we make and actions we take now. COMPLETE STORY
Changes, Even Unexpected or Unwanted, Can Be an Opportunity
May 5, 2020. WSF released a short video announcing new opportunities to save income, and gift, estate and generation-skipping taxes. COMPLETE STORY
Conservation Leadership
There is no better position to hold than the expert, and when it comes to wild sheep conservation nationally and internationally, WSF is the expert.
Bighorn Sheep hunting and trophy trade in Mexico
April 5, 2020. The introduction of livestock and uncontrolled hunting during the colonization era led to rapid decline of Bighorn Sheep, with populations plummeting from roughly 1 million (1800) to fewer than 25,000 (1950). In Mexico, the Northeast populations were extirpated, and the Northwest and Baja Peninsula populations fragmented.
Wild & Wool; New Film Exposes Die-offs of Bighorn Sheep
April 17, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), in partnership with Sitka Gear, has produced a new film that, for the first time, takes an in-depth look at what has been killing wild bighorn sheep since the 1930s, and has been slowing efforts to enhance populations of this iconic species.
Wild & Wool was accepted and shown at ten wildlife film festivals across the country in 2020 and saw it’s WSF debut as a Film Premier during Sheep Week. COMPLETE STORY
Managing “Cheatgrass” and other Annual Invasive Grasses
April 17, 2020. This video was produced from a scientific presentation during the January 15 Wildlife Professionals meeting held during the Wild Sheep Foundation’s 2020 Sheep Show® convention in Reno, Nevada. In this video Stuart Jennings introduces a new and exciting enhanced soil fertility technology that can be used to manage or minimize “cheatgrass” and other annual grass infestations. COMPLETE STORY
Wild Sheep Foundation Implements Central Asia Conservation Initiative
June 9, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) today announced a major advancement in the conservation and management of Central Asia's wild sheep and goat populations under the Foundation's Central Asia Conservation Initiative (CACI). The initiative includes the signing of Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with Central Asian NGOs and governments that will dedicate funding and commitments to on-the-ground conservation actions. COMPLETE STORY
In 2020, WSF and wild sheep conservation were blessed with another successful normal, and then pivoted into leading the way for the new normal.
Sheep Show 2020: Another Boon for Wild Sheep Conservation
Bozeman, Montana. Feb. 17, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) recently concluded its 43rd annual Sheep Show® convention, held in Reno, Nevada, this past January. The event draws hunter-conservationists from around the globe to reconnect with friends, make new ones, shop for their next adventure, and hopefully win or book a hunting adventure of a lifetime. 
In total, from the auctions alone, the convention raised more than $4.2 million from state, provincial, tribal, and country conservation permits. This number represents a 28% increase over 2019 and $919,000 more for wild sheep and wildlife conservation. Depending on the permit, eighty-five to one hundred percent of these funds are directed to these fish and wildlife agencies for wild sheep conservation, management, and enhancement programs. The balance that WSF retains is also directed to wild sheep and habitat conservation. COMPLETE STORY
Sheep Week, The Experience
WSF released a number of statements and one video to the Wild Sheep Family and our partners as we navigated the pandemic waters, keeping everyone apprised of our thoughts and decisions as we eventually moved toward a virtual convention. The one thing we continued to hear throughout this process is how much people appreciated the honest words and the updates, knowing exactly what we we’re planning and ultimately where they stood and what they could expect.
2021 Sheep Week
Aug. 3, 2020. You may be wondering, among other things, what the convention season might look like in the early part of 2021. Right now, definitive answers are hard to come by. Planning anything long- or short-term in our pandemic world is all but impossible. As valued members of the Wild Sheep Family, we feel you deserve a realistic look at what lies ahead so you can plan accordingly, even if it’s not shaping up to be what you’re used to seeing. COMPLETE STORY
2021 Sheep Show Update
Aug. 20, 2020. Since our last communication on 8/3 the WSF staff have continued to explore best in class options in the likely event we will not be able to host our convention in Reno, or at least one that would resemble the Sheep Show we’ve all come to enjoy. COMPLETE STORY
Amid Pandemic, the Wild Sheep Foundation Recruits Idea Ranch to Aid in Sheep Week 2021 Strategy
Sept. 9, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) announces its work with Idea Ranch as the conservation organization plans for its 2021 Sheep Week, a remote alternative to WSF’s yearly Sheep Show that proudly serves their members, partners, agencies, and supporters. COMPLETE STORY
A video message from WSF President & CEO, Gray N. Thornton
Sept. 10, 2020. Nobody wants to see the Sheep Show canceled over a virus. Not me. Not our Board. Not our staff. Nor, do our members, exhibitors, sponsors, donors nor anyone we’ve spoken with that’s concerned about wild sheep conservation. YOUTUBE LINK
WSF Unveils SHEEP WEEK®, The Experience
Oct. 10, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) today unveiled plans for the organization’s online Sheep Week® event that will take place on January 11 – 16, 2021. COMPLETE STORY
Register for SHEEP WEEK®, Win a Desert Bighorn Hunt
Dec. 7, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) opened registration to its virtual convention, SHEEP WEEK® The Experience, with news of a desert bighorn sheep hunt drawing for all paid registrants.
The online event will take place on January 11 – 16, 2021, but will stay active and available to all registered attendees until February 16.
“WSF isn’t taking a year off, and neither will wild sheep conservation,” said Gray N. Thornton, president, and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. “We’re excited to launch our new virtual hunting convention. It’s amazing the functionality of today’s virtual platforms; we’re creating a marketplace for our partners to connect with anyone who has a passion for mountain game hunting regardless of where they live, or travel and gathering restrictions.”
Leading Brands Join SHEEP WEEK®
Dec. 11, 2020. The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) today acknowledges some of the leading brands that have joined as sponsors for the Foundation’s new virtual convention, Sheep Week®, The Experience.
The online event will take place on January 11 – 16, 2021, with the platform fully functional for another month until February 16.

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