News.bytesSPOTLIGHT ON PARTNERS: Bighorn Institute - 11/15/05
An occasional feature of BLM California's News.bytes

Of all the more than 300 threatened or endangered species in California, none have captured the public’s imagination more than the majestic Peninsular bighorn sheep.

And of the more than 200 partnerships between the BLM and private organizations in California, none have stronger bonds than the ties between the BLM and the Bighorn Institute, based in Palm Desert.

In fact, BLM transferred the 300 acres the Institute sits on under the Recreation and Public Purposes Act, giving the private group headed by executive director Jim DeForge a home since 1984. More recently, the 2006 Interior appropriations act and conference report recognized this bond and strengthened it, stating: “The managers encourage the Bureau to work with the Bighorn Institute to conserve and recover the peninsular bighorn sheep.”

A mature ram in the Santa Rosa Mountains
Above: A mature ram in the Santa Rosa Mountains, part of the herd monitored by the Bighorn Institute.

The Institute, founded in 1982, is an independent non-profit almost completely privately funded, much through the efforts of its Board of Directors. [Former President Gerald R. Ford, who lived in the area until his death in December, 2006, served as the group's Honorary Chairman of Fund-Raising.] Through its efforts in cooperation with State and Federal wildlife agencies, the sheep have rebounded from a low population of 280 animals to around 700 animals at present, nearly all in the Santa Rosa/San Jacinto Mountain National Monument, managed by BLM and the Forest Service in cooperation with other entities.

Below: Bighorn Institute executive director Jim DeForge releases a ram just after it was captured, sampled and fitted with a collar:
executive director Jim DeForge

The Institute is dedicated to research, care for the animals, and captive breeding, having released over 100 animals captive bred or rehabilitated sheep into the Mountains since 1985. For more information about the Institute, contact them at P.O. Box 262, Palm Desert, 92261-2062 or online at

News.bytes, issue 206

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