The Nature Conservancy is positioned to sell a property known as Sheep Mountain to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Sheep Mountain sits just west of Cody, WY, wedged between the north and south forks of the Shoshone River. The property is a Conservancy priority for many reasons.
"The Nature Conservancy is committed to this deal because it will ensure public access to the land for recreation, hiking, horseback riding and hunting" says Andrea Erickson Quiroz, the Conservancy's Wyoming state director. “Access also gives a boost to the local economy, which is important during tough economic times.”
In addition to recreation, the land provides a crucial migratory path for elk, deer and grizzly bears. Plus, several unique plants are native to the area, including Shoshonea, Absaroka beardtongue, Absaroka biscuitroot and Aromatic pussytoes. The existing grazing rotation is not expected to change.
The Nature Conservancy purchased Sheep Mountain in 2000 with the intention of conducting a land exchange with the BLM. Such a move would have ensured public access, restricted residential development, and maintained the land in agricultural status – all critical objectives for the Conservancy. For over a decade, both sides tried to work out the details of an exchange, but many obstacles stood in the way. Both sides agree that the proposed direct acquisition is now the best course of action.
Funding for the acquisition of Sheep Mountain would come from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which directs a small portion of offshore oil and gas drilling revenues to protect important land and water throughout the country.
“The public land surrounding the land on top of Sheep Mountain warrants special management attention, and has long been recognized as important habitat for migrating and resident wildlife populations, including elk, deer and big horn sheep as well as grizzly bears and wolves,” said Don Simpson, BLM Wyoming State Director.
Currently the BLM is waiting for approval of their funding application. During this waiting period, many people have expressed their support of the land sale including Joe Tilden, Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Park County Commission member. "Sportsmen in Wyoming embrace the idea of maintaining public access to Sheep Mountain so we can continue our heritage of hunting. If it’s sold to a private owner, we may lose that.”
Katherine Thompson, the Conservancy’s northwest Wyoming program director, has been focused on completing this project with the BLM. "We want to see this property remain as it has been for generations. It’s an amazing place that draws visitors who want to ride horses, hunt, search for wildflowers, enjoy solitude and more. From the beginning, the Conservancy committed to hold the property until we could find a way to maintain these community values, if at all possible. The BLM, in accordance with their Resource Management Plan, will support these uses, continue the existing grazing plan, and maintain the mountain’s great value for wildlife and other resources.”
Proceeds that the Conservancy receives from the Sheep Mountain sale will not be used to support the organization’s operational costs, but rather, will be applied toward the capital costs of new conservation opportunities that benefit both people and nature across Wyoming.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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