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WSF Legislative Affairs Update 8/2021

August 12, 2021
posted in: Conservation, News

One of the critical components to Mission accomplishment for WSF is engagement in legislative and policy matters that can positively or negatively affect wild sheep and their habitats. These matters also include supporting sustainable use, conservation funding, and the traditions of hunting. WSF has a Legislative Affairs Committee (LAC) that meets via phone conference weekly, led by our contract lobbyist in Washington DC.

Here is a synopsis of this committee’s most recent works:

Wilderness Designations: WSF has engaged with several Senators who are sponsoring Wilderness designation bills. Over the years, these bills have gradually begun to exempt limited wildlife and land management from the restrictions under the Wilderness Act. We need more and stronger exemptions for water devices, control of weeds, habitat improvement, and hunting access. 

Desert National Wildlife Refuge (NV): Since WSF's victory with its many partners last year in saving the DNWR from transfer to the Air Force, we have opposed a new proposal to designate the Refuge as Wilderness. It's unclear how serious the Wilderness proposal is (it may be just a signal to the Air Force), but the bill has already been heard in the Senate committee. WSF has explained to the sponsor, Sen Cortez Masto (NV-D), that Wilderness restrictions would be premature as we are still working out restrictions on access imposed by the Air Force.

Big Game Migration Corridors: WSF is working with several partners to continue the migration corridor program started by the Department of Interior under the last Administration. There is strong support for expanding the program to fund habitat improvement for wild sheep and expand the program's scope to summer ranges. The new Administration, in discussions with WSF and publicly, sounds supportive of a more extensive migration program. But we cannot be sure their new ideas will remain focused on state-based proposals for active management.

Grazing Allotment Retirements: Interest in Congress to make allotment retirements permanent still exists, but it is not moving. We are aware of one comprehensive bill from last year by Rep Adam Smith (WA-9-D) and have discussed narrower bills with other offices. Nothing has been introduced as yet this year. As valuable as a successful bill would be, this idea does require complicated changes to existing grazing policy and will take a concerted effort to pass.

Other issues: WSF is active on a long list of other issues, all focused on putting and keeping sheep on the mountain. We have made progress on keeping the US Sheep Experiment Station a safe place for bighorns in that landscape. We continue to develop active awareness in the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management of the need to provide safe separation on grazing allotments. Toward that goal, we are pushing to fund the "Full Curl" shared-service position, so we have daily coordination with the Forest Service on plans and permits affecting wild sheep.

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