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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
Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

Our major accomplishment of the past year has been retirement of two domestic sheep grazing allotments on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest in southwestern Montana. These bands of domestic sheep have been causing serious disease problems for two separate bighorn sheep herds – resulting in upwards of 75% mortality – for more than three decades.

Bear Canyon (4,586 acres) and Indian Creek (7,483 acres) lie in the headwaters of the Beaverhead River, southwest of Dillon, Montana. Bear Canyon lies on the west face of the Tendoy Mountains, while Indian Creek stretches across the Continental Divide on the Idaho/Montana. This area is a key corridor that connects the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem with the Salmon-Selway Ecosystem to the north in Idaho.

For the last several decades, the Forest Service has permitted domestic sheep (1,200 ewes and lambs) to use these areas in the summer. Much of this area is dry, high-elevation grassland with aspen groves and conifer stands. The conflict arises because domestic sheep are known to transmit diseases to bighorn sheep that can result in dramatic die-offs of the wild sheep.

These two allotments have precisely that history. Bighorn sheep were introduced to the Tendoys in 1984; the herd thrived for its first decade, but then experienced a die-off in 1993 that killed 75% of the herd (which then numbered close to 100). The herd began to build back up again, only to experience another devastating reduction in 1999, when 75% of the herd was again lost to disease. The bighorn sheep herd adjacent to Indian Creek, which lives part of the year in Idaho, has also experienced die-offs, though not as severe as Bear Canyon.

It cost NWF $50,000 to retire these two allotments from domestic sheep grazing. Our agreement with the rancher allows him to graze a small number of cattle for a short period of time on one of the allotments. There’s no conflict between the small number of cattle and the bighorn sheep herds. It’s a solution that worked not only for the bighorns, but for the rancher, as well.  

Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep
Bighorn Sheep

While our Adopt-an-Acre program has often centered on conflicts with grizzly bears and wolves, bighorn sheep are another important wildlife species that frequently have been a focal point of our efforts. When domestic sheep come into contact with bighorn sheep, there's strong potential for disease transmission. Bighorns do not seem to have resistance to many of the pathogens that are carried by domestics. Consequently, bighorn sheep herds that range near areas that have domestic sheep frequently have large die-offs. Over the last decade these episodes of mass mortality have occurred in numerous locations. The conflicts between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep became so severe on the Payette National Forest in Idaho that environmental groups filed lawsuits to remove the domestic sheep. The National Wildlife Federation believes our approach of negotiating agreements is a superior approach if livestock producers are willing to meet us halfway. To date, we have retired over 600,000 acres surrounding Yellowstone National Park.

Winter is the time bison start migrating out of the snowy, high-elevation habitat that makes up most of Yellowstone National Park.   In past years, these huge beasts have been met at park borders by government agents who either kill them, place them in pens or attempt to herd them back into the park with helicopters and snowmobiles.  They do this because ranchers fear bison will compete with livestock for forage and bring diseases which cows might contract.

But thanks to the National Wildlife Federation’s Wildlife Conflict Resolution project – and thanks to those of you who support this work—bison are now finding secure winter habitat when they leave the Yellowstone.  NWF has been instrumental in creating safe havens for bison outside the park.  We achieve this by offering ranchers payment in exchange for retiring their livestock grazing privileges. 

But just this week another threat to Yellowstone’s bison emerged, this time from Montana’s state legislature, where a bill has been introduced that would allow bison to be shot on sight when they leave the park.  It only demonstrates that the same mentality that resulted in the slaughter of American’s bison over 150 years ago is still alive and well in some quarters. 

November 2012

The National Wildlife Federation continues to actively seek out opportunities for resolving conflicts between livestock and wildlife both in the area around Yellowstone National Park and within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR) in northeastern Montana. 

We have negotiated grazing retirements on more than 600,000 acres around Yellowstone Park, and have developed agreements with ranchers on more than 55,000 acres within the CMR.  In the Yellowstone Park area, these retirements have been pivotal in resolving conflicts between large predators and cattle.  Previously these problems were addressed by killing or relocating wolves and grizzly bears. Our Yellowstone retirements also provide bison with crucial winter range outside of the park, eliminating the perceived need for government agents to kill bison when they go beyond park boundaries. 

Our CMR grazing retirements are setting the stage for bison restoration to this 1.1 million-acre refuge, which contains some of the best remaining prairie habitat in the United States.  In the meanwhile, they benefit other prairie species such as sage grouse, pronghorn antelope and mule deer. 

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) believes the 1.1 million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR) in north-central Montana contains not only the best potential bison habitat in Montana, but anywhere in the United States. NWF's efforts to develop agreements with ranchers to refrain from grazing cattle on the refuge are a key piece of creating the available habitat for this wild-ranging species. 

In June, 2012, Montana's Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks began a process to evaluate the prospect of restoring a wild bison population to their native prairie habitat.  Public response was unprecedented.  Read more about this recent story here.  During the 60-day comment period the state received nearly 23,000 comments.  This is higher response than for recent proposals regarding wolves and grizzly bears (no small feat!).

In addition to Yellowstone National Park, your gifts to our Adopt-A-Wildlife Acre program enable us to pursue historically significant conservation projects at incomparable wild places like CMR; a landscape and ecosystem that when fully restored has the potential of becoming the “American Serengeti.”

 

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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
$80,629 to go
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