WSF Welcomes Taos Pueblo as New Affiliate
June 17, 2022
posted in: News
"The wild sheep family continues to grow," said Gray N. Thornton, President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation. "We are thrilled to be able to welcome the first Native American tribe as our newest Affiliate. Our Chapters and Affiliates represent the backbone of wild sheep conservation efforts on the ground. The Taos Pueblo people have been an advocate and partner for wild sheep restoration, management, and hunting opportunities on their lands. Formalizing this union was long overdue."
Established in 1977 over the concern for historically low populations of wild sheep, especially Rocky Mountain bighorn and desert bighorn sheep, WSF has grown to include eight WSF Chapters and thirty-seven Affiliate Chapters.
The Taos Pueblo is one of the oldest Native American tribes in the U.S., dating back over 1,000 years, having settled in the region along the Rio Grande River in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico around 900 A.D. Taos Pueblo lands now encompassed nearly 100,000 acres.
The Taos Pueblo Division of Natural Resources (TPDNR) manages two populations of Rocky Mountain bighorns in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness and the Rio Grande Gorge. Since 2006 TPDNR has collaborated with the Wild Sheep Foundation on its wild sheep conservation programs. WSF has, in turn, helped raise funds for these programs by auctioning two permits at its annual Sheep Week® convention. To date, proceeds from these permits have totaled over $3.7 million.
"I have been an employee of the Taos Pueblo Division of Natural Resources since the reintroduction efforts of Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep into the Rio Grande Gorge and worked to get the population to its current status as the largest population of bighorns in New Mexico. Becoming an Affiliate of the WSF has always been my goal, and I am thankful for this to come to fruition. This is a great opportunity for Taos Pueblo and their mission for wild sheep conservation and management. We look forward to sitting at the table with other professionals dedicated to wild sheep conservation and becoming a model for other Tribes to follow. I want to thank past WarChief's and Directors for the guidance and support of our program and Bryan Bartlett of NMWSF and the WSF for making this Affiliation possible." — Michael A. Martinez, Hunt Manager
"The Taos Pueblo Warchief Office would like to take this opportunity to recognize and thank Mr. Gray N. Thornton, and Wild Sheep Foundation for accepting Taos Pueblo as an Affiliate Chapter. Taos Pueblo has a long-standing relationship with both the WSF and the New Mexico Chapter of WSF that was molded over the years. Taos Pueblo is proud to be represented among the other Chapters and Affiliates throughout the United States and across the World focused on keeping and putting wild sheep on the mountain. We look to further enhance and improve the conservation, management, and hunt opportunities by working alongside the Wild Sheep Foundation, while also being advocates for other Tribal Nations that wish to establish and manage their Wild Sheep populations. On behalf of the Taos Pueblo WarChief's Office, we express our sincere gratitude in becoming an Affiliate of the Wild Sheep Foundation." —Jeremy S. Lujan, WarChief Secretary
Like bison to the Plains Indians, wild sheep are culturally significant to many Native American Tribes across the West. Unlike bison, wild sheep never occurred in vast numbers. Their decline from unregulated over-harvesting and diseases passed from domestic livestock, namely sheep and goals, was swift. By 1950, only 20,000 bighorn sheep remained in the Lower 48 states. Today this number is up to over 85,000, thanks to the efforts of sportsmen and state and tribal wildlife agencies.
"Wild sheep restoration and management is a journey, not a destination," Thornton added. "It's of critical importance we welcome all stakeholders. WSF is focused on facilitating good things for wild sheep. Our Chapters and Affiliates are our eyes and ears out on the landscape. Having the Taos Pueblo formally join us in these efforts is huge, and we welcome all other tribes who have wild sheep on their lands or once did and want them back."
The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF), based in Bozeman, Mont., was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. With a membership of more than 10,000 worldwide, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep and other mountain wildlife and their habitats. WSF has raised and expended more than $140 million on wild sheep habitat and population enhancements, education, and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe, and Asia to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. These and other efforts have increased bighorn sheep populations in North America from historic lows in the 1950-60s of 25,000 to more than 85,000 today. www.wildsheepfoundation.org.