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
Much of the CMR Refuge is critical for sage grouse
Much of the CMR Refuge is critical for sage grouse

The National Wildlife Federation has a long history of working to resolve livestock / wildlife conflicts on the 1.1 million acre Charles M. Russell (CMR) National Wildlife Refuge in northcentral Montana.  The refuge is home to abundant populations of grassland birds, pronghorn, elk and mule deer.  Grazing has a long history on the refuge and we've been working cooperatively with ranchers to make more room for wildlife. The refuge is managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and is part of the National Wildlife Refuge System and managing for healthy and abundant wildlife populations is the first priority on the refuge, however, working cooperatively with neighboring ranchers means high quality wildlife habitat doesn't end at the refuge boundary. NWF has two priority programs on the CMR refuge.  The first is actively working to reduce livestock fence collisions with sage grouse by strategically placing visual markers so fence strike mortality is minimized.  The second is working to retire cattle grazing allotments on the refuge to minimize conflict with wildlife.

In October we negotiated an important cattle grazing agreement on the east end of the refuge on the 2,200 acre Bay Pasture on Bobcat Cr.  Our goal is to provide the US Fish and Wildlife Service with increased flexibility in their grazing program by reducing the overall number of livestock on the refuge.  This is only done by working with willing ranchers and developing agreements for them to waive their grazing permit. We have fundraised much of the cost of this effort, but still have $5,000 yet to raise to pay for this grazing retirement. 

NWF does not believe all livestock grazing is a negative, but in the face of climate change, increased drought and vulnerable species, reducing grazing pressure allows native plants and wildlife to gain a foothold.  In fact, the northern Great Plains evolved with significant grazing, in the form of millions of bison grazing the prairie.  Bison, however, graze much differently than livestock, creating a patchwork of high and low intensity areas that are a necessity for a variety of grassland bird species, including sage grouse, spragues pipits and McCown's longspur .  NWF's long term goal on the CMR is to restore an ecologically significant bison population (<1000 animals) to the refuge to fulfill this critical ecological niche, however, in the meantime we are working cooperatively to change the current cattle grazing regime to allow for greater species diversity.  

Working with MT Conservation Corps flagging fences
Working with MT Conservation Corps flagging fences
Camping on the CMR Refuge for field work
Camping on the CMR Refuge for field work
Elk are abundant on the CMR Refuge
Elk are abundant on the CMR Refuge
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The MT / ID "High Divide" is critical for wildlife
The MT / ID "High Divide" is critical for wildlife

One of NWF's key campaigns over the past decade has been the enhancement of wildlife habitats in the High Divide eco-region, not only to sustain resident wildlife populations within this magnificent landscape but also to improve landscape connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone and the Salmon-Selway ecosystems in central Idaho. NWF initiatives have triggered new BLM planning to protect key wildlife habitats, catalyzed sage grouse habitat mapping and protection, removed livestock from areas with high potential for conflicts with wildlife, and advanced balanced federal legislation to protect hundreds of thousands of acres of wilderness while underwriting restoration of working landscapes. Through voluntary grazing retirements we have eliminated wildlife / livestock conflicts on over 140,000 acres along the High Divide. In turn, we are reconnecting wildlife to landscapes where they’ve been absent nearly a century. 

This immense swath of high elevation public lands runs west out of Yellowstone Park, including the Centennial Mountains and the south Beaverhead Mountains on the Montana/ Idaho border until joining the Salmon / Selway Wilderness in central Idaho.  For the past 20 years, NWF has worked collaboratively with ranchers, agencies and other conservation NGO's to highlight the importance of the region as an essential wildlife corridor.  However, we still have much work to do to ensure wildlife can utilize this important corridor without running into trouble.  

In addition to NWF's grazing retirement work on the High Divide, we continue to fight efforts to end domestic sheep grazing on the United States Department of Agriculture's Sheep Research Station (ARS) lands.  The ARS lands amount to 16,600 acres of prime habitat for a variety of species and is not a suitable place for grazing research to be conducted.

Of particular importance is the role of this wild country for expanding Yellowstone's grizzly population.  Grazing domestic sheep on the high elevation pastures in the Centennial Mountains will continue to limit the potential expansion of grizzly bear populations as more conflict arises. In addition, domestic sheep limit the ability for wild sheep populations to expand into the region as domestic sheep often can pass on deadly bacterial pathogens to wild sheep. 

Over the next year we see incredible opportunity to work collaboratively to find solutions that will allow wildlife populations to fully utilize this valuable ecological corridor.  

Ellis Peak, critical bighorn sheep habitat
Ellis Peak, critical bighorn sheep habitat
The High Divide is a critical corridor for bears
The High Divide is a critical corridor for bears

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Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, photo Evan Thomas
Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains, photo Evan Thomas

Over the past fifteen years, the National Wildlife Federation has worked to eliminate conflict between wildlife and livestock on public lands- primarily those located within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. We do this by cooperating with public land managers and conservation partners to identify and retire grazing allotments that experience chronic conflict with wildlife—a wholly voluntary market-based transaction with willing ranchers.

To date, through our Adopt a Wildlife Acre program, we've protected over 1.1 million acres of habitat on public lands for bison, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly bears, elk and native fisheries. These grazing retirements have helped wolf and grizzly bear populations to recover across the northern Rockies and bighorn sheep and bison to roam freely without livestock conflict. Watch the video below about an incredibly important area just protected in the Salmon-Challis National Forest, home to the largest herd of bighorn sheep in Idaho.

Check out a video of our most recent work!

While we have plenty of important work remaining in the Yellowstone ecosystem, we believe it is more important than ever to expand the program to other areas of the west where wildlife and traditional livestock grazing continue to be at odds. 

Adopting Acres for Wildlife in Colorado and Nevada

The official state animal of Colorado, the iconic bighorn has dwindled to less than 8,000 and is under continuous threat of disease.  Separation between wild bighorns and their domestic counterparts is the key to security and to their success.  

We recently completed a Colorado bighorn sheep assessment that confirms bighorn populations face a high risk of disease: our research documented over 90 federal domestic sheep grazing allotments that overlap with occupied bighorn sheep habitat.  We are confident that targeted negotiations with local sheep producers will support substantial recovery and protection of Colorado's bighorn population over the next decade. 

Our vision is to restore bighorn populations in Colorado over the next 10 years by eliminating major risk areas on public lands. 

In Nevada, bighorn populations have faced a tumultuous past and with over 80% of the state in public land.  We see tremendous opportunity to expand our efforts to not only secure Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep populations, but California bighorn and desert bighorn populations as well.  Drought, invasive weeds, fire and expanding domestic livestock operations have put wild sheep populations in a precarious balance.  By targeting specific conflict areas, our proven approach will can give Nevada bighorns a fighting chance.

In a time when wildlife is facing increased threats of development, disease and habitat loss, it’s more important than ever to expand our work and increase our efforts. We thank you for your continued support of NWF's Adopt a Wildlife Acre program.

Please Adopt a Wildlife Acre TODAY.

NWF is working with ranchers to protect wildlife
NWF is working with ranchers to protect wildlife
NWF also works in Wyoming's Teton Mountains- Wells
NWF also works in Wyoming's Teton Mountains- Wells
NWF works to protect bighorn sheep in the West
NWF works to protect bighorn sheep in the West
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The Cape Horn allotment in the Salmon Challis NF
The Cape Horn allotment in the Salmon Challis NF

Chinook salmon spawning in central Idaho's Cape Horn area can breath a sigh of relief thanks to NWF's recent efforts to retire domestic sheep grazing on the critical endangered Chinook spawning grounds.  

The Cape Horn allotment lies in the headwaters of the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in the Salmon Challis National Forest west of Stanley, Idaho. This grazing retirement will protect critically important spawning habitat for steelhead, threatened Chinook salmon and bull trout. The Chinook that spawn in Knapp Creek, Marsh Creek, Valley Creek, Beaver Creek, and Swamp Creek, within the Cape Horn allotment boundaries, represent one of the last remaining wild Chinook populations that has not been genetically influenced by hatchery fish.  In total, the allotment includes 38 miles of Chinook spawning habitat.  

Unfortunately, long-term grazing on Cape Horn has threatened recovery of the species.  Historically, hundreds of sheep trailed across the vast 86,000 acre allotment in late August and they often waded through several critical spawning areas, known as redds, and trampled Chinook eggs. 

In addition, the domestic sheep grazed on this high-elevation allotment during the summer months threatened the health of nearby bighorn sheep populations in the Salmon River area. This is Idaho's largest bighorn population and eliminating the risk of contact with domestic sheep will ensure their longterm stability.  

The sheep rancher, the Forest Service and National Wildlife Federation were all seeking solutions.  By compensating the producer to retire his grazing permit, it allows the Forest Service to permanently cancel the grazing permit.  This solution benefits the Forest by cutting costly management and monitoring of the allotment and provides financial opportunity for the rancher to pursue alternate grazing in areas with minimal conflict with wildlife and secure his business.  

We are currently fundraising to pay the rancher for the Cape Horn retirement, and have $60,000 yet to raise in the next 5 months.  For the cost of less than $2/ acre, the conservation benefits of this grazing retirement are hard to match.  Many thanks to our supporters who make this important work possible.

Domestic sheep threaten Chinook and bighorn sheep
Domestic sheep threaten Chinook and bighorn sheep
Chinook migrate over 700 miles to spawn in Idaho
Chinook migrate over 700 miles to spawn in Idaho

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Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep don't mix
Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep don't mix

The National Wildlife Federation, in close partnership with the Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, is celebrating another exciting victory for wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.  In early November, 36,000 acres of domestic sheep grazing were permanently retired in the upper Green River region southeast of Yellowstone / Grand Teton National Park in the Bridger-Teton National Forest.  

For well over a decade these (4) allotments were ground zero for grizzly bear and wolf conflicts south of Yellowstone. In fact, 68% of all grizzly bear conflicts in the Yellowstone Ecosystem over the last ten years occured on these domestic sheep grazing allotments.  As a result of these conflicts, dozens of bears and wolves have been removed ,relocated and / or killed, significantly hindering their recovery. While NWF has worked with other ranchers to retire similar problem allotments over the past 15 years, this retirement is an important benchmark for species protection.

Not only does this win benefit wolves and bears, but bighorn sheep also come out big winners.  The risk of contact between domestic and bighorn sheep has been significant on the allotments.  This contact is especially troublesome as bighorn sheep face a high risk of becoming infected with pneumonia carried by their domestic counterparts.  The disease, when transmitted to wild sheep, often results in all-age die offs and can decimate entire herds of bighorns.  By eliminating this risk, bighorns will once again thrive.  

The most important part of this work is all the agreements we negotiate with ranchers are completely voluntary. The agreements are designed to benefit both native wildlife and provide the rancher financial opportunity to acquire grazing elsewhere where there is minimal conflict with wildlife.  This free-market approach protects the strong western tradition of ranching while at the same time shifting grazing patterns to benefit wildlife for future generations.  

The support of our donors and partners has been invaluable in creating these long-term win-win solutions for wildlife! 

Grizzlies frequent the upper Green River, WY
Grizzlies frequent the upper Green River, WY
Conflicts between sheep and bears spell trouble
Conflicts between sheep and bears spell trouble
Grizzly bear recovery requires careful teamwork
Grizzly bear recovery requires careful teamwork

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National Wildlife Federation

Location: Reston, VA - USA
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Project Leader:
Kit Fischer
Reston, VA United States
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