Sweetwater Rocks bighorn sheep bill clears Wyoming Legislature

    The Wyoming Legislature passed a bill this month that attempts to protect local ranchers from federal “overreach” if bighorn sheep are reintroduced at Sweetwater Rocks.

    Senate File 118 – now Senate Enrolled Act 66 – requires the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to remove bighorn sheep from the Sweetwater Rocks herd unit if any federal action requires, or indicates it might require, the elimination, reduction or suspension of domestic livestock grazing or trailing in the area.

    But Wyoming Rep. Sarah Penn, R-Lander, said her constituents who ranch near the Sweetwater Rocks are still concerned about the impact the reintroduction of bighorn sheep might have on their livelihoods, even with legislative protections in place.


    “Their concern is that we have trust issues with our feds,” Penn said when SF 118 came up on third reading in the Wyoming House of Representatives this month. “I understand that the point of this bill is supposed to be that the state can push back against fed, and I’m usually all for that. (But) the question is, what does the future hold? Do we trust that those relationships are there?”

    Wyoming Rep. Pepper Ottman, R-Riverton, said bighorn sheep shouldn’t be reintroduced to Sweetwater Rocks “until the federal government puts in writing that no permits will be adversely impacted and the management plan not opened up.”

    “This is a real threat (to) these ranchers – this is everything that they have,” Ottman said. “For the protection of these grazing rights out on this allotment, we need to have federal legislation that specifically states that grazing will not be impacted and the resource management plan will not be open due to any new management practices.”

    Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, agreed that the ranchers near Sweetwater Rocks have “a serious and valid concern” about the impacts bighorn sheep could have on their grazing leases – but he also pointed out that SF 118 addresses those concerns by enacting “sideboards (to) protect domestic livestock.”


    Those protections are “not in place now,” he added, calling SF 118 “an important step to mitigating all of the conflict and the uncertainty that currently exists.”

    Larsen was the only local representative to vote in favor of SF 118 on third reading this month.

    The final version of the bill states that the new law would only take effect “after applicable federal law is enacted (that) aligns with the purposes of this act.”


    If no such law is enacted, the bill will become effective Jan. 1, 2026.


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