Pitkin County commissioners and the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Board are considering a new measure Tuesday aimed at protecting bighorn sheep in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area.
Domestic sheep carry respiratory pathogens that can be transmitted to bighorns. In bighorns, those pathogens can be deadly -- with the potential to wipe out entire herds.
In efforts to reduce encounters between the two types of sheep, the National Wildlife Federation has negotiated an agreement with a rancher whose grazing allotment near Marble puts domestic sheep within range of bighorns.
That agreement is hinged on a payout that includes $32,000 from Pitkin County and additional funding from the Two Shoes Ranch and the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society.
The rancher, Joe Sperry, would voluntarily relinquish his grazing allotment and move his flock of about 1,000 sheep elsewhere.