The Uintas Mountains run through northern Utah, south of the Wyoming border. In the center is the High Uintas Wilderness, where the highest peaks rise.
The Ashley Forest and the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache Forest are being severely damaged by the grazing of domestic sheep. The Forest Service is now thinking about allowing sheep grazing to continue in these Wildnerness areas.
Unlike Bighorn sheep, domestic sheep are not native; they are farm animals. They do not belong on this Wilderness land, which is meant to be wild. The grazing of thousands of domestic sheep destroys the habitat for wolves, cougars, bears, and wolverines – and the rest of the eco-system. The plant life is harmed along with streams and rivers, and trees disappear. The Wilderness then is no longer wilderness in any true sense of the word.
These wild forest areas need to be restored and renewed, and this can only happen if the grazing of sheep in these forests is halted. Please send an email before April 23 asking the Forest Service to end the grazing of domestic sheep on these beautiful, sensitive wild lands. There is a sample email below. – Editor
Domestic sheep grazing threatens Utah Wilderness
By Dr. John Carter,
Yellowstone to Uintas Connection
High Uintas Domestic Sheep Grazing – In May, 2014, the Forest Service released a scoping letter to reauthorize grazing by 12,850 ewe/lamb pairs of domestic sheep on ten allotments covering 156,950 acres of the Wilderness, closer to 170,000 acres if the adjacent West Fork Black’s Fork allotment were to be included, which we have requested, since it is also used as a sheep driveway.
This means that between 25,700 and 38,550 sheep actually are permitted to graze, depending on the number of ewes with single or twin lambs. We submitted initial scoping comments in June, detailed comments in July followed by supplemental comments addressing wilderness issues. Important issues we are addressing include bighorn sheep, Canada lynx, cutthroat trout, watershed health and recreational impacts. Bighorn sheep historically occupied the Uintas, but are killed by disease, particularly pneumonia, transmitted from domestic sheep.
Canada lynx historically occupied the Uintas and have been documented recently as radio collared lynx from reintroductions in Colorado moved into the Uintas and north, following the historic corridor we address (see below).
Much of Utah’s water supply also depends on the watersheds in the Uinta Mountains, which are heavily degraded and losing their storage capacity due to loss of ground covering vegetation from sheep grazing. Sediment from eroding watersheds impairs spawning habitat for cutthroat trout and is accelerating the filling in of the lakes in these areas.
We, with the assistance of our akitas – who carried food, camp gear and equipment, spent many years documenting the damage to wilderness values here. A powerpoint presentation of some of that effort is available for viewing or download. We prepared and submitted a report to the Forest Service with data, analysis and photo-documentation of the damage. The Forest Service has been unable or unwilling to acknowledge the damage as they move monitoring locations to avoid those most damaged while blaming gophers and other causes for the barren soil and erosion.
We have organized a coalition of concerned organizations and individuals and have met with the Regional Forester’s Office, the Forest Supervisor for the Uinta Wasatch Cache National Forest and the Supervisor of the Ashley National Forest to discuss our concerns and obtain their Bighorn Sheep Risk Analysis, which has become a political hot potato due to allotment closures in the Payette National Forest. We are obtaining agency data for analysis and further comment as we press for removal of domestic sheep from the wilderness. Most recently we submitted additional scoping comments to meet a December 2015 deadline. The Forest Service has again opened a scoping period and those scoping comments are due on April 23. The Gallatin Wildlife Association has submitted its comments for this scoping period and those were excellent comments.
John Carter, Manager
Yellowstone to Uintas Connection
PO Box 62
Paris, Idaho 83261
Sample email re sheep-grazing in Uintas
Comments are due April 23, 2016. Please send an email or letter to the Forest Service expressing your opposition to continued domestic sheep grazing in the Wilderness. Here is a sample email, which you may send as is, or you may add your own thoughts. Many thanks!
Dave Whittekiend, Supervisor
Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest
857 West South Jordan Parkway
South Jordan, UT 84095
Re: Uintas Domestic Sheep
Dear Supervisor Whittekiend:
Please issue a decision discontinuing domestic sheep grazing in the Uinta Wilderness. In addition to the 10 allotments named in your February 16, 2016 scoping letter, we urge you to issue a decision also closing the West Fork Black’s Fork to continued grazing. Domestic sheep are impairing our watersheds and water supply, creating accelerated erosion, degrading fish and wildlife habitat and are a threat to bighorn sheep, and other wildlife who historically depended on this area. People who travel to this area to experience the wilderness are met with tens of thousands of sheep, smells of sheep, their noise and threatening guard dogs. You can end this conflict by retiring these allotments.
Thank you for your consideration,
Photos: Dr. John Carter / Grazed and ungrazed streams in the Uintas Wilderness.