Gallatin Wildlife Association:

Our Strategy on Big Horn Sheep:

Picture Taken by Clint Nagel along Hwy 191, Gallatin Canyon on Sept. 27, 2013.


A note from the author, Jim Bailey:


Just a note on the photo of bighorn ewes and short-yearlings along Hwy 191. All the trees in the background are bad for habitat security. Habitat security in this area amounts to (1) staying on or very near what cliffs are there; (2) being near the road where predators (wolves, lions) are less apt to come. It is an example of what I tried to describe in the article, Habitat: The Missing Element in Montana's Bighorn Strategy.


For specific papers click above on those links or use below.


1.Habitat: The Missing Element in Montana's Bighorn Strategy


2.The Small-Population Strategy of Bighorn Sheep


3.Additional Bighorn Sheep Science



Restoring Bighorn Sheep and Grizzly Bear Habitat in the Centennial Mountains


It is not often that bipartisan solutions are offered that cut wasteful government spending and improve the environment. However, that is exactly what both the Trump and former Obama administration proposed when they recommended closing the U.S. Sheep Experimental Station headquartered in Dubois Idaho. They recommended closure for financial reasons, but removing the domestic sheep from public lands in important bighorn sheep and grizzly bear habitat in the Centennial Mountains of Montana and winter range in Idaho would also greatly improve the wildlife habitat. This proposal is welcomed and long overdue. Unfortunately, special interest politics have intervened to disrupt the process.


The old federal sheep station perpetuates conflicts by allowing University of Idaho domestic sheep to use prime bighorn sheep and grizzly bear habitat along the continental divide on the Montana-Idaho border, all at tax payer expense.  Numerous scientific peer-reviewed research papers have proven that domestic sheep can transmit pathogens deadly to bighorn sheep when contact occurs. Domestic sheep are also a black hole for Greater Yellowstone grizzly bears attempting to expand their range along the continental divide.


Amazingly, the 16,600 acres controlled by the station in the Centennial Mountains in Montana are not considered public lands by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to USDA all these nationally owned lands are off limits to general public access, including public hunting, hiking, backpacking, etc. The only “legal” public access through this area according to USDA is provided along the Continental Divide Trail. Leaving the trail on sheep station controlled lands, as we understand it, would be considered criminal trespass.


These are some of the wildest places in North America and they represent a crucial wildlife corridor between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Selway-Bitterroot ecosystem to the west-northwest. A variety of species, including elk, mule deer, moose, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, sage grouse, wolves, and grizzly and black bears are adversely impacted by this government domestic sheep grazing program. So is walk in public access. This is no place for a tax-payer subsidized domestic sheep pasture.


Closing the Centennial Mountains to domestic sheep use, opening up public access and reducing the burden to American taxpayers is a bipartisan issue. It makes both financial and ecological sense. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do.


Why then has funding for this old station been placed back in the President’s proposed budget? We encourage you to ask Senators Tester and Daines from Montana and Representative Mike Simpson from Idaho exactly that question. In the interim, hunting/conservation organizations like the Gallatin Wildlife Association and Cottonwood Environmental Law as well as other wildlife and public land access advocates will continue to pursue actions to prevent the wildlife habitat in the Centennial Mountains from being degraded further and work for full public access to these incredible public lands.


The public land in question, most particularly the 16,600 acres of prime wildlife habitat in Montana would best be transferred to the adjacent Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge as the value of this public land for wildlife and public hunting and viewing far outweigh any other use. 


Contact Info:


Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho 2nd Congressional District:


Senator Steve Daines of Montana:


Senator Jon Tester of Montana:


A Case to be Made for the Gravellies:



The importance of the Gravelly Range, Centennials and

Tobacco Root Mountains for bighorn sheep and grizzly bears.



The Science of our Argument:

In case you didn't know, Gallatin Wildlife Association has gone to court to protect bighorn sheep from disease transmission by domestic sheep.  MT Fish, Wildlife, and Parks says it would reintroduce Bighorn sheep into the Gravelly Mountains of Southwest Montana if domestic sheep were not grazed there.
Bighorn sheep have been found dead where the domestic sheep are grazed. Grizzly bears, black bears, and wolf packs have been killed because of domestic sheep. Gallatin has partnered with Cottonwood Environmental Law Center in asking the court to remove the domestic sheep and allow wildlife to use over 55,000 acres of public land in the Gravelly Mountains. 
That has led to this exchange on MPR on Dec. 19, 2018.

The Gallatin Wildlife Association is working along side Cottonwood Environmental Law Center to help keep the Gallatin as pure as it should be, as clear and fresh as a mountain stream. The problem? Developers want to dump waste from the Big Sky community into the Gallatin River. But we had a setback. The latest message from John Meyer of Cottonwood Enviroinmental Law Center.


The Montana Board of Environmental Review denied Cottonwood and Gallatin Wildlife Association’s Petition this morning to permanently protect the Gallatin River from discharge of treated waste water. The Board offered the rationale that GYC is collaborating with developers. 
Cottonwood will be hiring another attorney. 
If you know a small business or person that values clean water over mansions and has a small shed near downtown that we can work out of please pass along my contact info. 
Thank you."


John Meyer


Executive Director & General Counsel 
Cottonwood Environmental Law Center

P.O. Box 412 Bozeman, MT 59771


For more information about our efforts, please contact John Meyer at Cottonwood Environmental Law Center.



The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station:



Gallatin Wildlife Association works closely with Cottonwood Environmental Law Center. For years our groups have challenged domestic sheep grazing by the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in 16,000 acres of the Centennial Mountains of southwest Montana. The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail cuts through the federal land and is closed to the public for hunting, hiking, camping and other recreational uses.

Biologists have described the Centennial Mountains as the most important grizzly bear corridor in the lower United States. In the heart of this corridor the Federal Government grazes thousands of domestic sheep. Grizzly bears have killed domestic sheep and chased sheepherders away from sheep carcasses.

Gallatin and Cottonwood have prevailed on two lawsuits against the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station that led the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to attempt to transfer the federal research to Nebraska, save tax payers millions of dollars every year, and open the 16,000 acres of federal land to the public. In response, Montana U.S. Senator Steve Daines introduced appropriations legislation that kept the Sheep Experiment Station open. Commissioners for MT Fish,
 Wildlife and Parks have sent letters to Montana's U.S. Senators asking him to stop domestic sheep grazing in the Centennial Mountains. The lead researcher for the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station has stated that grazing domestic sheep in the Centennial Mountains is not necessary for research purposes.

President Trump has indicated his intention to close the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station to save taxpayer money. Senator Daines has again stated he will attempt to circumvent the closure of the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station and keep the 16,000 acres of federal land along the Continental Divide Trail closed to the public.

Please call Senator Daines and ask him to close the U.S. Sheep Experiment Station, save millions of tax payer dollars every year and open over 16,000 acres of federal land to the public for hunting, hiking, camping and mountain biking. (406) 587-3446.


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