Jul 23, 2021

NWF Launches New Wolf Conservation Initiaitve

Photo by William Wiley
Photo by William Wiley

Our GlobalGiving supporters are some of our most dedicated and for this reason, we would like to introduce to you the next phase of expanding NWF’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program. As you may know, NWF has spent decades addressing the conflicts between wolves and livestock in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Despite our success in supporting what has been a miraculous recovery of this iconic carnivore in the Northern Rockies, recent state legislation in Idaho and Montana have targeted the killing of up to 90% of the population in these states. We find these efforts appalling and are doubling down on our efforts to reduce wildlife / livestock conflicts in the West. The Adopt a Wildlife Acre team has spent the past several months developing a new wolf conservation initiative to push back on these efforts while continuing to negotiate the retirement of public land grazing allotments where there are conflicts between wolves and livestock. In short, we are marshalling all available resources, including our generous supporters, to protect the incredible gains the conservation community has made over the last three decades to recover wolves in the Northern Rockies.

A key component of this initiative is implementing a multi-pronged goal of successfully reintroducing wolves to Colorado. You may have heard that with the passage of Proposition 114 in November of 2020, the state of Colorado is required to transplant wolves to the West Slope of the state by the end of 2023. Colorado has millions of acres of suitable habitat for wolves and we are thrilled to be a part of the effort to reestablish these large carnivores to the largest remaining area of unoccupied suitable habitat left in North America.

NWF has decades of experience working on wolf management ranging from our leadership in the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park in the early 1990’s to our advocacy of the sound management of wolves in the Great Lakes, Northern Rockies, Pacific Northwest and Southwest. Based on these experiences, NWF has learned that a rational, science-based and pragmatic voice can resonate with broad audiences and is critical to creating the societal acceptance necessary for the long-term sustainability of wolf populations. Proposition 114 was decided by a small margin and as a result, there is a risk that the wolf reintroduction in Colorado will lead to deeper and more permanent divisions at a time when healing and collaboration is needed. Through our Adopt a Wildlife Acre program, NWF has a long history of building coalitions and consensus among disparate groups including ranchers, sporting organizations and wildlife advocates and is eager to use our decades of experience in building bridges that will lead to the long-term success and sustainability of a wolf population in Colorado.

To facilitate the successful reestablishment of a healthy wolf population in Colorado and to address the political pressure to reduce the wolf population in the Northern Rockies states, NWF will pursue a number of strategies including:

  • We will conduct an media and outreach campaign to provide scientifically sound information about wolves with the goal of building social tolerance, acceptance and consensus.
  • We will produce a report authored by Diane Boyd, one of the leading American wolf biologists, what will summarize the lessons learned from 30 years of wolf management in the U.S.
  • Lead an effort to engage and educate ranchers in how to utilize non-lethal strategies to minimize the conflict between livestock and wolves.
  • Pursue state and federal policy solutions that will provide the public funding necessary for wolf management programs across the west.

The Adopt A Wildlife Acre program will continue our efforts to negotiate the closure of public land grazing allotments to protect wolves, grizzly bears bighorn sheep and other priority species. We also look forward to bringing our decades of experience in managing wildlife-livestock conflicts to champion the restoration of wolves across the American West. Please feel free to reach out with any questions and as always, we are grateful for your support.

Photo by Teresa McGill
Photo by Teresa McGill
Map by Living with Wolves
Map by Living with Wolves
Mar 26, 2021

Adopt a Wildlife Acre- Bighorn Reintroduced!

Ellis Peak in the Tendoy Mountains of Montana
Ellis Peak in the Tendoy Mountains of Montana

You may ask, "Why does NWF focus so much of our work on bighorn sheep conservation?"  The simple answer is - bighorn are in trouble. Wild sheep occupy only a fraction of their historic range and their populations remain in jeopardy because of habitat loss and disease from their domestic counterparts.  For nearly 20 years NWF has worked to create separation between wild and domestic sheep on public land through voluntary grazing allotment retirements.  This work has been immensely successful and we have retired over 1.3 million acres of conflict grazing areas over the past twenty years and have secured dozens of bighorn sheep herds that faced risk of disease die-offs.  

In 2013, NWF and our partners worked to retire two critical domestic sheep allotments in the Tendoy Mountains of southwest Montana, Indian Creek and Bear Canyon.  In addition, we retired several allotments south of the Tendoys in the North Beaverhead Mountains that also posed a significant risk of disease contact. In total, thanks to our generous donors and supporters, NWF invested nearly $500,000 towards these projects.

Bighorns in the Tendoys had long battled disease issues and by reducing the disease vector, the stage was set for a recovery plan.  Unfortunately, Mycoplasma Ovipneumonia remained present in the herd and it was clear that the herd would never fully recover if the disease remained in the herd.  In 2015 Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks approved a controversial plan for hunters to kill the remaining 50 animals in the Tendoys with a goal to ultimately replace those sheep with disease free animals from elsewhere in the state.  

On February, 27 bighorns were captured from Wild Horse Island on Flathead Lake and released at the mouth of Muddy Creek in the Tendoy Mountains.  All 27 animals (2 lambs) were fitted with GPS remote downloadable collars to track their movements to see how they adapt to their new home.  Next year the plan is to transplant an additional 25 animals to the Tendoys with the expectation that the new, disease- free herd will flourish and expand.  

Although we started our work in the Tendoys eight years ago, we couldn't be more pleased to see bighorns once again thriving in this landscape!  

A map of the "High Divide" Montana/ Idaho border
A map of the "High Divide" Montana/ Idaho border
NWF Grazing Retirements in the High Divide
NWF Grazing Retirements in the High Divide
A bighorn being fitted with a collar for release
A bighorn being fitted with a collar for release
Bighorn sheep are well adapted to harsh conditions
Bighorn sheep are well adapted to harsh conditions

Links:

Dec 18, 2020

Year in Review - Adopt a Wildlife Acre

NWF's WCR team on a site visit in southern Utah
NWF's WCR team on a site visit in southern Utah

Thanks to your steadfast support, the National Wildlife Federation has retired an incredible 1.5 million acres of grazing over the past 18 years. While 2020 wasn’t the year any of us anticipated, we secured significant wins for wildlife through retiring grazing allotments as part of our Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program. We are excited to share the highlights of our work over the past year. In 2020 NWF's Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program:

• Partnered closely with the Taos Pueblo tribe to retire the Santos domestic sheep allotment, adjacent to the Rio Grande Gorge, which has been identified as an extremely important wildlife corridor for multiple species and home to one of the largest herds of bighorn sheep in North America. Removing domestic sheep will prevent the transmission of disease to these wild sheep.

• Remained in active discussion with a permittee of two high priority domestic sheep allotments in the Centennial Mountains, a critical east-west expansion area for grizzlies.

• Continued efforts to retire the final cattle grazing allotment in Capitol Reef National Park. While the permittee is willing to move, alternate grazing has been challenging to uncover.

• Retired the Endlich Mesa domestic sheep allotment in the San Juan Forest near Durango to protect bighorn sheep from disease transmission as well as protecting sensitive riparian areas. Check out this short video of the area when sheep were grazing last year at nearly 13,000 feet.

 Started negotiation on two high conflict domestic sheep allotments in northwest Colorado. When completed, the two allotments will protect 10,000 acres of desert bighorn sheep habitat.

• Continued to negotiate several allotment retirements in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. These include: West Fork of the Madison allotment which has a high number of grizzly bear-livestock conflicts, a cattle allotment South of Big Timber, MT, two domestic sheep allotments in the Wyoming Range south of Jackson, and several cattle allotments West of Cody, WY.

• Launched an effort to retire grazing allotments on tribal lands in order to open up space for the reintroduction of wild bison.

Additionally, with the passage of the wolf reintroduction ballot initiative in Colorado, we believe our grazing retirement work could play a critical role for wolf tolerance in areas where grazing is already a marginal business practice.

Our grazing allotment retirement program has proven to be a cornerstone of wildlife conservation initiatives in the West and we are excited for the future. As we expand the scale and geographies of this work, our main challenge is the time spent raising funds for each allotment before we can move onto the next project, thereby slowing our progress. We plan to embark on a comprehensive fundraising campaign in the coming years to address this challenge.
Looking ahead, our goals include:

• Retire an average of 100,000 acres each year. The map attachment illustrates the areas protected thus far, and the high priority allotments we have identified.

• Elevate opportunities to include retirement language in Forest Service Planning Revisions and more importantly in land protection designations, such as wilderness areas or National Monuments to change the status quo for grazing decisions and provide more flexibility to reduce grazing pressure in sensitive areas.

• Team up with our Tribal Lands Program to develop opportunities to retire grazing on Bureau of Indian Affairs land on the Wind River Reservation.

These accomplishments are yours as well and we hope you are proud of the significant and positive impacts we are having on conservation in the west. Thank you for your support and for your confidence in the work we do!


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