Bighorn sheep will benefit from a proposed change in management of Elliott Mountain, within two wilderness study areas of eastern Emery County, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

Ranchers Joel and Steve Stamatakis of Price and Don Wilcox of Green River have sold their livestock grazing privileges in the 105,000-acre area, which is adjacent to the Green River, with the river on the east. It is bordered by the Book Cliffs on the west and south, and by Turtle Canyon and Range Creek on the north.The $35,000 sale was a result of negotiations between the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, several private interest groups and the ranchers, said the BLM's Moab District manager, Gene Nodine.

In the early 1970s, 22 Rocky Mountain bighorns were released at the mouth of Florence Creek on the nearby Uintah-Ouray Indian Reservation. Some of them crossed the Green River and began living in the Elliott Mountain area.

"However, the Elliott Mountain bighorn population is small and may not be viable," said Mary Plumb, spokeswoman for the BLM's Moab District headquarters. "Bighorn transplants were not considered feasible while domestic sheep grazed in the area because domestic animals can transmit diseases to bighorns."

But with the relinquishment of the livestock grazing privileges, the BLM proposes to manage the area to improve bighorn habitat and streamside habitat.

"The opportunity to see bighorn sheep and the improvement of riparian vegetation will make the river more attractive for recreationists," Plumb said.