In two different opinion pieces in the Durango Herald, Dan Parkinson and John Mumma mislead readers about our sheep allotments on a very small part of the Weminuche Wilderness. They both insinuated that bighorn sheep had been killed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) because they had mixed with our sheep and therefore would be exposed to a disease that would kill them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our sheep have never mixed with bighorns and the CPW has never killed a bighorn on our allotments.
J. Paul Brown
Former Colorado State Representative
Radical Environmentalist Bullying the Forest Service to Deny Renewal of Longtime Sheep Allotments
In two different opinion pieces in the Durango Herald, Dan Parkinson (DH 2/12/17) and John Mumma (DH 12/11/16) mislead readers about our sheep allotments on a very small part of the Weminuche Wilderness. They both insinuated that bighorn sheep had been killed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) because they had mixed with our sheep and therefore would be exposed to a disease that would kill them. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our sheep have never mixed with bighorns and the CPW has never killed a bighorn on our allotments.
My family has grazed sheep on the upper Florida River for 48 years. I have personally spent most of my summers on our allotments in every one of those years and I have spent more nights in a bedroll in the Weminuche Wilderness than any man alive. I have never seen a bighorn sheep on our allotments. And none of my sheep herders that I know of have ever seen a bighorn on our allotments. I have been told that there have been two unverified sightings of a bighorn on or close to our allotments, but neither of those were reported close to where our sheep were grazing.
So why would Mumma and Parkinson mislead folks about killing bighorns on our allotments? I don’t know, but kicking us off of our allotments would be the end of our ranching operation. There would be no more Sheep Trailing Days through Bayfield. The open space and wildlife habitat that we provide with our private land would be subdivided. It would be the end of the income that we provide for the local economy. And it would be the end of the dream of our sons and grandchildren to continue the Brown family ranching business. I don’t think that is what the people of La Plata County want!
It is evident that Parkinson and Mumma are attempting to convince the community and the nation that domestic sheep are bad and can’t live in harmony with the bighorn sheep. We believe that is absolutely not true! Our allotments are up for renewal by the Forest Service. This must be done every 10 years. Most allotments go through an Environmental Assessment (EA), but because of threats of a lawsuit by radical environmental groups like Western Watersheds and others, the Forest Service is upgrading the review to an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to make sure that there is no reason to be sued.
Potential domestic sheep contact with bighorns is a factor in the renewal of our allotments. I just got back from a Bighorn Sheep Symposium in Helena, Montana where the best scientists in the world came together to talk about the latest science regarding the health of bighorn sheep. I want to learn everything that I possibly can about this issue so that I can help protect the health of the bighorn herds. Domestic sheep have been blamed for the deaths of bighorns and it is true that domestic sheep have the pathogens that can be spread to the bighorns, but hundreds of studies of bighorns show that those same pathogens are already in the bighorn herds. Also, it is thought that some bighorns have developed a natural immunity to diseases making them more resilient. There are studies being conducted on bighorns in the San Juan Mountains to see what pathogens they already have. Environmental issues like hard winters and drought are also reasons that bighorns die. Also, coyotes, bear, eagles, and mountain lions eat baby bighorns. Since the Weminuche herd is not increasing as fast as expected and have not been exposed to our sheep, I suggest that predation may be one of the reasons.
We love the bighorn sheep and we are cooperating with the Forest Service to adopt management strategies in the event that bighorns might come close to our sheep. We have agreed to adjust the boundaries of our allotments. Sheep herders are with our sheep 24/7 and they are on the lookout for bighorns and will notify me and proper authorities if they ever see a bighorn. In the event that a bighorn might someday come close to our sheep the herders are trained to haze bighorns away from our sheep and to move our sheep away from the bighorns. We have radio collared some of our sheep so that the Forest Service can know where they are at all times. Bighorns are being collared so that we can know if they are ever close to our sheep. We don’t agree with CPW that bighorns should be killed in all cases if they happen to mix with domestics. Why not tranquilize them, keep them alive, and study what happens. We will do everything that we can to protect the bighorns.
For whatever reason Parkinson, Mumma, and others want to destroy our business and eventually the rest of the domestic sheep industry in Colorado by taking away our allotments. However, we believe that we can continue our ranching business and live in harmony with the bighorns. If you agree with us let the Forest Service and the Durango Herald know.
Dan Parkinson is the Southwest Regional Director of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. (I guess they don’t appreciate our contribution to wildlife habitat. I ask that no one contribute to this group!)
John Mumma is an anti-grazing advocate, now retired, who was paid with our hunter and tax dollars while working for the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Forest Service and can be reached at email@example.com
J. Paul Brown
Former Colorado State Representative
My Grandfather came to Durango Colorado in 1947 and bought a sheep outfit and our family has been in the range sheep business off and on ever since. My wife Debbie and I and our 4 sons bought part of my Dad’s sheep operation, the sheep, BLM allotments, and Forest Allotments, in 1983. Along with running sheep I have been a La Plata County Commissioner, Ignacio School Board Member, and a Colorado State Legislator. We are the only sheep outfit left on the Weminuche Wilderness in La Plata County.
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