SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Santa Fe and Carson National Forests announced on Monday the implementation of a closure order which would prohibit domestic sheep and goats from certain wilderness areas. This is in order to protect bighorn sheep native to the area.

The order is to go into effect Friday, May 28, 2021, until Dec. 31, 2025, unless the order is canceled sooner. The areas affected include the Pecos Wilderness and Dome Wilderness on the Santa Fe National Forest and the Latir Peaks Wilderness, Columbine Hondo Wilderness, and Rio Grande Wild and Scenic River Corridor on the Carson National Forest.

Officials say these areas are key habitats for the species or contain migration corridors. According to a Forest Service press release, bighorn sheep were nearly wiped out from New Mexico in the 1960s and collaborative efforts by federal agencies and the New Mexico Game and Fish Department helped to reestablish the sheep in their habitat.

The release states domestic sheep and goats often carry harmful bacteria without showing signs of illness and could be harmful to the bighorn sheep population. Officials say violation of the closure order is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by a fine of no more than $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for organizations, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both.