National Wildlife Federation Partners with Notable Rancher to Protect Bighorn Sheep in San Juan National Forest

DURANGO, Colo.  — The National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program and Ignacio-based rancher, J Paul Brown today announced an agreement to waive his permit to graze the Endlich Mesa domestic sheep allotment to protect the bighorn sheep population in the area. The 11,150 acre allotment is 20 miles northeast of Durango in the Weminuche Wilderness Area and covers much of the City of Durango Watershed Protection Area, including City Reservoir. 

Bighorn sheep rely on high elevation meadows and rugged peaks found throughout the San Juan Mountains. Unfortunately, domestic sheep carry a number of pathogens that can cause respiratory disease events and decimate entire herds of bighorn sheep if they come in close contact. In exchange for waiving his family’s grazing permit and protecting the bighorn herd, the National Wildlife Federation is providing a fair, market-based compensation to Mr. Brown. 

“Domestic sheep no longer grazing on Endlich Mesa will reduce the risk of pathogen transfer to bighorn sheep, especially high priority herds such as the Weminuche bighorns,” said Bob McCready, program manager at National Wildlife Federation. “While completely voluntary, these agreements are still very difficult decisions for the livestock producer and J Paul has been a fantastic partner in every step of the process.”

“My family has grazed this allotment for decades and waiving the allotment back to the Forest Service for the possible benefit of the bighorn sheep, which we love, was a very difficult decision. The National Wildlife Federation provided us with a way to do this,” said J Paul Brown. 

The Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program focuses on grazing agreements across the West where there are chronic conflicts with wildlife such as bears, wolves, grizzly bears, bison and, in Colorado, bighorn sheep. Ranchers voluntarily waive their permits to graze an allotment and the agency that administers the permit commits to holding the allotment vacant for the foreseeable future. This market-based approach recognizes the economic value of public land livestock grazing and fairly compensates ranchers for retiring their permits.




Get Involved

Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

Learn More
Regional Centers and Affiliates