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Adopt A Wildlife Acre

by National Wildlife Federation
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Adopt A Wildlife Acre
Sarvis creek is popular among local anglers
Sarvis creek is popular among local anglers

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) continues to make excellent headway in reducing conflicts between wildlife and livestock on public lands.  Due to the amazing success of the program and support of our donors for our work in the northern Rockies, we've been able to expand our Adopt-A-Wildlife Acre program to the southern Rockies.   Last month we were able to complete our first grazing retirement in Colorado, laying the foundation for a successful expansion of our program and securing substantial additional habitat for wildlife.

We recently completed a grazing agreement with a private grazing permittee to address a prolonged conflict between livestock and wildlife that has been taking place outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The focus of this effort is the Sarvis Creek North Allotment on the Routt National Forest, which encompasses 31,000 acres in the USFS Sarvis Wilderness Area.

In particular, the geography of the allotment requires extensive management effort to move cattle outside of the Sarvis Creek drainage.  This fact has resulted in the concentration of cattle in and around Sarvis Creek, resulting in streambank erosion, stream incision, sedimentation and damage to the fishery located in the Wilderness Area.  The Sarvis Creek area also hosts prime fishing and hunting territory, and is increasingly sought after by hikers and wilderness enthusiasts during summer months. 

The concentration of cows in the drainage has led to conflicts with recreationalists and additional management investment from the USFS to assure that access to the Wilderness Area is maintained.  With increasing recreational use anticipated from nearby Steamboat Springs, conflicts between grazing and anglers, hunters and other recreationalists is likely to grow.  Lastly, the concentration of cows along Sarvis Creek has led to trespass into the adjacent Sarvis State Wildlife Area.  Due to grazing issues on the Sarvis Creek North Allotment, the Wildlife Area has seen a decline in conditions resulting in impacts to wildlife habitat and recreation. 

This agreement seeks to find an equitable solution for livestock and wildlife interests.  This market approach recognizes the economic value of livestock grazing permits and fairly compensates the producer for retiring their lease. We are excited about the future prospects of our work in Colorado and securing critical habitat for species such as bighorn sheep, trout, elk and deer.

*In addition to our expanded work in the southern Rockies, in February NWF's Northern Rockies Regional Center released a report titled, "Bighorns, Big Risks", documenting the decline of Montana's treasured bighorn sheep population.  Most notably, 39 of Montana's 46 bighorn sheep populations are at risk of disease exposure from domestic sheep.  

Livestock damage along the riparian areas
Livestock damage along the riparian areas
Sarvis Wilderness area was established in 1993
Sarvis Wilderness area was established in 1993
NWF
NWF's Kit Fischer on a recent bighorn sheep survey

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Bighorn sheep in Idaho
Bighorn sheep in Idaho's Lemhi Mountains

The National Wildlife Federation continues to make great success in eliminating wildlife / livestock conflicts on public lands in the West.  Most notably, last month NWF negotiated a grazing agreement with a domestic sheep producer in central Idaho (Lemhi Mountains) to retire his allotment to protect neighboring bighorn sheep.  

While this allotment retirement was quite small (25 sheep on 5,000 acres) the risk of those domestic sheep passing deadly pneumonia to their wild counterparts was extremely high. By compensating the rancher to retire the allotment, he is able to sell the sheep and afford the costs to convert his entire operation to cattle, which pose no disease risk to area wildlife and are a less likely target for predation.  A win for wildlife and a win for a long-time family ranch.  

This retirement is also significant in that it was the last remaining domestic sheep allotment in the entire Lemhi mountain range- thereby securing a future for one of Idaho's healthiest populations of domestic sheep.  

In addition, several other grazing agreements are in the works, two sheep allotments in Idaho and another five in Wyoming and our first grazing agreement in Colorado--in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness near Steamboat Springs, will likely be completed in the coming weeks.  2016 is shaping up to be a big year for wildlife and wild places and it wouldn't be possible without the continued support of our donors!

Pahsimeroi valley Idaho
Pahsimeroi valley Idaho

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Centennial Mountains of Idaho and Montana
Centennial Mountains of Idaho and Montana

The National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program (Adopt-A-Wildlife Acre) has continued to make excellent progress in reducing livestock / wildlife conflicts in the northern Rockies.  In August, the National Wildlife Federation finalized a grazing agreement on the Limestone Irving / Middle Creek domestic sheep grazing allotments in the Centennial Mountains, straddling the high divide of the Montana / Idaho border, west of Yellowstone National Park totaling 82,000 acres.

Since the Adopt-A-Wildlife Acre program was founded in 2002, the National Wildlife Federation has resolved conflicts on over 1 million acres for wildlife in the west!

This Limestone Irving / Middle Creek retirement, with seven allotments in total, is one of the largest and most important retirements NWF has negotiated on the High Divide, a critical East to West wildlife corridor between Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park. Domestic sheep allotments in the area have faced chronic conflicts with both large carnivores and bighorn sheep.

The domestic sheep allotments retired are adjacent to occupied bighorn sheep habitat in Montana’s Tendoy Mountains. We focused our efforts in this region because the bighorn herd in the Tendoys has dwindled in recent years due to disease transmission that likely occurred from co-mingling between the two species.  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will be culling the existing herd in the Tendoys this fall and plans to reintroduce clean bighorn sheep to the region in the coming year.  Due to this critical retirement, bighorn sheep will have a fighting chance for a comeback in the Tendoy Mountains and their range and populations will be allowed to expand south to the Lima Peaks area and over the Idaho border.  

Tendoy Mountains - Occupied Bighorn Sheep Habitat
Tendoy Mountains - Occupied Bighorn Sheep Habitat
A bighorn ram courting a ewe in southwest Montana
A bighorn ram courting a ewe in southwest Montana
NWF is solving conflicts for Yellowstone Grizzlies
NWF is solving conflicts for Yellowstone Grizzlies

We believe livestock grazing retirements can be a powerful tool for restructuring where grazing occurs on public lands. Most significantly, we have been able to accomplish noteworthy changes in the Yellowstone ecosystem with minimal controversy.  We believe that’s because we recognize that grazing leases have economic value and pay accordingly.  We think our project provides an important model that could be duplicated for other species.  To date we have done grazing retirements to resolve conflicts involving grizzly bears, wolves, bison and bighorn sheep. 

This past year set a new high-water mark for NWF retirements.   We successfully retired five grazing allotments, providing significant conflict-free habitat for bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, wolves and sage grouse. These retirements will permanently end conflicts between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep (disease transmission occurs that often decimates entire populations) over a significant area of southeastern Idaho. 

We believe grazing retirements could significantly boost conservation efforts for sage grouse and anadromous fish. NWF is actively involved with negotiations involving two grazing allotments in central Idaho where livestock have trampled the redds of endangered chinook salmon. Several of our recent bighorn sheep retirements are equally important for sage grouse. 

The outlook for maintaining this success is positive. The bighorn sheep risk analysis that the Forest Service is undertaking continues to move slowly forward, and NWF’s Adopt-A-Wildlife acre program has proven itself as the primary means of changing existing land use patterns without major controversy. NWF remains in contact with five permittees in Idaho and Wyoming with whom we have a solid outlook for developing grazing retirement agreements in 2016.

Most recently, we followed up our initial Bureau of Land Managment (BLM) retirement with a second one in late spring of 2015: the 59,000-acre Deadman domestic sheep allotment, also in the Upper Snake River area of southern Idaho. The cost was $66,000.  We are also pleased that our recent retirements have been secured for an affordable price. The majority of our retirements have cost less than $3 per acre.The ability to provide substantial conservation at a low cost has allowed NWF to have a significant impact solving livestock / wildlife conflicts on large landscapes in the Rocky Mountain West.

Bighorn sheep are between a rock and a hard place
Bighorn sheep are between a rock and a hard place
The Upper Gros Ventre Retirement N. of Jackson, WY
The Upper Gros Ventre Retirement N. of Jackson, WY
Native plants regenerate quickly without livestock
Native plants regenerate quickly without livestock

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A "full curl" bighorn ram
A "full curl" bighorn ram

The National Wildlife Federation’s most recent Adopt-A-Wildlife-Acre work has focused on resolving conflicts between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep that graze on public lands in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Domestic sheep frequently harbor a type of pneumonia that is easily transmitted to bighorns and often results in large-scale die-offs. Entire herds have been decimated and the diseases can become endemic in the bighorns that do not die outright, leading to high lamb mortality and a continuing downward spiral in the bighorn population.

These disease issues have caused wholesale declines in bighorn sheep herds across the West. It is estimated that in the last century, bighorn sheep populations have declined from 70,000 animals to as low as 30,000.

At the end of April, NWF completed two important grazing retirement agreements in southeastern Idaho that will significantly reduce the disease risk that bighorn sheep face in that area. While all of NWF’s previous retirements have occurred on National Forest lands, our latest Adopt-A Wildlife-Acre project is on the Howe Peak allotment which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

According to NWF Regional Executive Director Tom France, “The Howe Peak retirement establishes an important precedent as BLM manages many domestic sheep allotments that overlap key parts of bighorn sheep range in many western states.  We are encouraged the BLM recognizes grazing retirements can work for ranchers as well as for wildlife.”

The Howe Peak area of southern Idaho
The Howe Peak area of southern Idaho
A bighorn lamb and ewe
A bighorn lamb and ewe

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Organization Information

National Wildlife Federation

Location: Reston, VA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Kit Fischer
Reston, VA United States
$369,371 raised of $450,000 goal
 
1,419 donations
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