Wild Sheep Foundation Pushes Multiple-Use Answers to Deadly Disease Affecting Wild Sheep


Pneumonia is in the way of restoration – Partnership is path forward.

Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) leaders visited Capitol Hill last week to support continued positive guidance from Congress on the threat of deadly pneumonia that infects wild sheep herds in the western United States and Canada.

Wildlife and veterinary professionals agree that wild sheep were infected first by contact with domestic sheep and goats during European settlement of the western part of the nation, and new infections occur when wild and domestic sheep encounter each other in the wild. Legacy infections resurface as all age die-offs in previously infected wild sheep herds, even without new contact with domestics.

“Disease is the single biggest obstacle to the restoration and management of wild sheep,” said WSF Director and chair of WSF’s Legislative Affairs Committee Brett Jefferson. “The only solution is to create safe, disease-free areas around healthy herds, and the best people for that job are hunter/conservationists and woolgrowers working together.”

Congress in 2015 directed the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to work closely with the people most directly affected by the risk of disease.

“We are asking Congress to re-issue the same guidance for next year,” said Jefferson, who chairs the WSF Legislative Affairs Committee.  “Congress must keep sending a steady, productive message to help make collaborative solutions the standard operating procedure against all the conflicts over public lands.”

Representatives of WSF met with key members of Congress in Washington, D.C., including Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Steve Daines (MT), and Congressman Crescent Hardy (NV).  The group also met with senior staff for Senators Jim Risch (ID), Jon Tester (MT), and Congressman Joe Heck (NV).

“We are asking Congress to remain supportive of the hard work of problem-solving that we are doing state by state,” said Jim Wilson, a WSF Director and chair of the WSF Chapter and Affiliates Committee.  “Our chapters and affiliates are working with woolgrowers and other partners on a neighbor-to-neighbor basis to find solutions.  Bipartisan support in Congress keeps multiple-use interests working together towards a common goal.”

“Wild sheep conservationists are grateful for the efforts of Congress for bringing this issue to a far better place,” said Kyle Meintzer, former WSF Director and vice chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee.  “Five years ago it was hard to imagine any progress in finding and resolving high-risk disease areas.  Now, we have a will to move forward and good ideas for finding low-risk alternative grazing allotments for domestic sheep.”