Sierra Club cites habitat in opposition of Bighorn Project

Source: Arizona Game and Fish
Source: Arizona Game and Fish

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - The Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, including its 35,000 members, has provided reasons for opposing the effort to restore the bighorn sheep population in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Director Sandy Bahr provided those reasons in a letter to the state's Game and Fish Commission in April. Bahr wrote that the organization supports the restoration of native species to their habitat, but it does "question the efficacy of introducing animals to an era where they have disappeared, where it is unclear why the population died out and where a majority of habitat is poor to fair."

The director elaborated on the concern over habitat, citing encroaching development and a lack of fire to help clear vegetation as reasons for the poor habitat. She wrote that the habitat could be a major contributor to the deaths of the sheep.

Since the start of the project, 16 sheep and 3 mountain lions have died. There are currently 20 sheep in the herd.

News of the Sierra Club's stance is encouraging to other environmental organizations, according to Dwight Metzger with Friends of Wild Animals.

"We know that the popular support in Tucson is against the killing of mountain lions and against wasting wild animals lives," he said. "So it's great to have allies like the Sierra Club on board."

Bahr said Saturday that she has not received an official response, so she will follow up with the commission. She said the issue is not with the biologists or staff, but with the policy makers.

"It's not that Game and Fish is generally responsive on wildlife issues overall, especially if they don't consider you one of their constituents," she said.

A call for comment to the commission Saturday was not returned in time for this report. Return to this story for updates.

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