Recent grazing decisions continue to risk Southwest Colorado’s bighorns.
On a recent October morning, a single-engine plane dipped and jerked in a turbulent wind. A small group of conservationists and policy advisors, accompanied by my photographer and me, had all packed into a tiny EcoFlight to fly over a terraced expanse of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Our pilot took a sharp turn east. The plane rumbled; our shoulders bumped and our cellphones shook as we took blurry photos of snow-capped mountains. We were at the apex of our route, a 126-mile loop over San Juan, Ouray and Hinsdale counties. Directly below us was Hensen Creek, a place that Terry Meyers, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society, called “ground zero” for bighorn-domestic sheep conflicts in southwestern Colorado. He put it bluntly: “We’re looking down on a ticking time bomb for a mass die-off of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.”