Bozeman-Based Wild Sheep Foundation Receives Membership in International Union for Conservation of Nature, World’s Largest and Most Diverse Environmental Network

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Groups focus on sustainable use and conservation of wild species and habitats around the globe.

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"The Wild Sheep Foundation footprint just went global." Jack Atcheson, Jr. Chairman of WSF Conservation Committee

The Bozeman, Mont.-based Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) has received approval to be admitted as a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

With more than 1,300 members, including nations, government agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations and over 10,000 international experts, IUCN is the world’s largest and most diverse environmental network focused on sustainable use and conservation of wild species and their habitats around the globe.

“The still in-progress restoration of bighorn sheep from the 1960s-‘70s lows of 25,000 sheep to more than 85,000 today is a testament to the effectiveness of the IUCN principles of sustainable use in conjunction with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model,” said Gray N. Thornton, WSF president & CEO. “As the leader in wild sheep conservation, WSF is honored to join IUCN, the world’s preeminent conservation body and to share this story with the others in our collective interest to conserve and enhance the wild sheep resource around the globe.”

According to Kurt Alt, WSF’s conservation director for Montana and international sheep and goat programs, WSF applied for membership in IUCN because it was a natural fit with WSF’s mission of enhancing wild sheep populations, promoting professional wildlife management, and educating the public on sustainable use, including the conservation benefits of hunting. WSF has over 7,000 members worldwide and a chapter and affiliate network that spans North America and Europe.

Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $120 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia.

“For WSF to expand its reach internationally, IUCN membership is the most effective means,” Alt said. “WSF wanted to have a strong voice in how IUCN members discuss sustainable use and conservation and to actively participate in IUCN’s Caprinae Specialist Group, which is devoted to conservation of wild sheep and goats worldwide. Membership in IUCN will allow WSF to influence policy and action on sustainable use and conservation of not only sheep and goats, but all species and their habitats worldwide.”

Last October, Alt represented WSF as a presenter at the IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management, Sustainable Use and Management of Ecosystems conference in Lima, Peru. In Sept. 2019, WSF will host the IUCN-endorsed 7th World Mountain Ungulate Conference in Bozeman. This will be the first time the conference will be held in North America.

“The admission of WSF to IUCN is the single most important event for WSF since its creation in 1977,” says Jack Atcheson, Jr., chair of WSF’s Conservation Committee. “Now, WSF’s hunter-supported conservation model will have global opportunities to benefit other conservation-dependent mountain species. At the same time, WSF will greatly benefit from IUCN’s strong new partners, ideas and resources. The WSF footprint just went global.”

Established in 1948, IUCN became the first global environmental union, with a goal of guiding conservation action through international cooperation and scientific knowledge. In 1964, IUCN established the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, which has since evolved into the world’s most comprehensive data source on the global extinction risk of species. IUCN also played a fundamental role in the creation of key international conventions, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which the US joined in 1974.

In partnership with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), IUCN published in 1980 the World Conservation Strategy, a document that helped define the concept of “sustainable development.” In 1999, IUCN was granted official observer status to the United Nations. It is the only environmental organization with that standing.

With its world headquarters in Bozeman, Mont., the Wild Sheep Foundation, formerly the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, was founded in 1977 by wild sheep conservationists and enthusiasts. WSF’s Mission is to enhance wild sheep populations, promote professional wildlife management, and educate the public and youth on sustainable use and the conservation benefits of hunting while promoting the interests of the hunter and all stakeholders. With a membership of more than 7,000 worldwide and a Chapter and Affiliate network in North America and Europe, WSF is the premier advocate for wild sheep, other mountain wildlife, their habitats and their conservation. Since forming in 1977, the Wild Sheep Foundation and its chapters and affiliates have raised and expended more than $120 million on conservation, education and conservation advocacy programs in North America, Europe and Asia towards its purpose to “Put and Keep Wild Sheep On the Mountain”®. These and other efforts have resulted in a three-fold increase in bighorn sheep populations in North America from their historic 1950-60s lows of 25,000 to 85,000 today. WSF, its chapters, affiliates and agency partners are also working together to ensure thinhorn sheep thrive in their northern mountain realms for generations to enjoy.

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