Secretary Zinke Proposes 20 Year Mineral Withdrawal Renewal for Wyoming Bighorn Sheep Winter Range

A male and female bighorn sheep stand on a grassy plain covered in snow.
Last edited 9/29/2021

Date: April 25, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke ​proposed​​ to renew a mineral withdrawal in the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Winter Range, southeast of Dubois, Wyoming, for an additional 20 years. The proposal ​follows Zinke's secretarial order to protect big game migration corridors and winter range and​ as many states, like Wyoming, are prioritizing migration initiatives to better help and understand the habits of animals like sheep, mule deer, elk, and antelope​. This measure will ​ensure that these robust big game populations continue to thrive and exist​ for hunters and wildlife watchers​.

“The Trump administration is serious about conservation, and we are backing up our words with action,” said Secretary Zinke. “​I've always said there are places where it is appropriate to mine and places it is not. The Whiskey Mountain range is a good example. ​We need to manage the land using the best science to achieve the greatest good in the longest term. In the Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Winter Range, that means prioritizing sheep migration. We have a unique opportunity to position our nation for 100 years of conservation stewardship, and we can begin to do so with steps like the one we are taking today.”​

Secretary Zinke's February 9, 2018, Secretarial Order 3362 to conserve big game winter range and migration corridors seeks to improve wildlife management and conservation and expand opportunities for  hunting by improving priority habitats ​within migration corridors across the West.  Improving these areas also improves habitat for other species, like sage-grouse.​

Whiskey Mountain Bighorn Sheep Winter Range supports one of the largest wintering herds of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in North America and draws thousands of people annually.  For nearly 50 years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and the U.S. Forest Service have coordinated the management and enhancement of bighorn sheep and their habitat on Whiskey Mountain.  The proposed extension will withdraw 1,431 acres of Federal land from location or entry under the U.S. mining laws, but not from leasing under the mineral leasing laws. Public land order 7434 established this withdrawal in 2000 and will expire unless the mineral withdraw is extended. The public land order that established this withdrawal in 2000 will expire unless the mineral withdrawal is extended.

“Whiskey Mountain provides critical winter range for America’s largest bighorn sheep herd,” said President and CEO, National Wildlife Federation Collin O’Mara. “We appreciate the Secretary's steps to ensure this remarkable herd will remain protected from development that would harm it.”

“An extended mineral withdrawal of more than 1,000 acres in the Whiskey Mountain area would facilitate management of the largest wintering concentration of bighorn sheep in North America by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service,” said President and CEO of the Wild Sheep Foundation Gray N. Thornton. “Secretary Zinke has repeatedly stated his conservation approach is to strike a balance between resource protection and development; protection of this important bighorn sheep habitat in Wyoming is a great example of that approach.”

A notice announcing the proposed mineral withdrawal extension was published in the Federal Register on April 25, 2018, beginning a 90-day public comment period. Comments on the proposed extension, or requests for a public meeting to discuss the extension, should be received by July 25, 2018 and submitted to the BLM Wyoming State Director, 5353 Yellowstone Road, Cheyenne, Wyoming, 82009.

For more information, please contact Michael Hogan, BLM Wyoming State Office realty officer, at 307-775-6257 or Leta Rinker, BLM Lander Field Office realty specialist, at 307-332-8405.

To learn more watch this video.

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