The 7,200-acre Slip and Slide retirement, located on the Gallatin National Forest immediately north of Yellowstone National Park near Gardiner, Montana, has been a significant part of the Yellowstone bison controversy for more than a decade. The presence of domestic livestock immediately adjacent to the park – and the consequent governmental concern that bison might mingle with livestock and transmit the disease brucellosis to cattle – has been the primary reason why bison have not been allowed to roam outside of Yellowstone National Park borders.
In 2008, NWF helped negotiate an agreement with the Church Universal and Triumphant to remove cattle from the 6,000 acre Royal Teton Ranch. It was the only significant cattle operation on the west side of the Yellowstone River. The no-grazing agreement was a major breakthrough in resolving the Yellowstone bison controversy.
Now we are ready to take the next step. The Slip and Slide retirement is the only major cattle operation on the east side of the Yellowstone River immediately north of the Park. The only other livestock in the area immediately north of Gardiner are small herds where fencing can maintain adequate separation between cattle and bison. With this Slip and Slide retirement, federal agencies will have run out of reasons not to allow bison to roam outside the Park in the Gardiner Basin.
While the Slip and Slide area is important for bison, it also provides critical winter habitat for elk and mule deer. It’s also an important area for grizzly bears and wolves. The retirement is completely within the Primary Conservation Area for grizzlies that’s been established by state and federal agencies. It has a resident wolf pack, as well. The presence of these large predators has made it challenging to maintain a profitable livestock operation.
NWF’s Adopt-A-Wildlife-Acre Program has seen incredible success since its launch. To date, the program has succeeded in retiring more than 620,000 acres of vital wildlife habitat, securing safe areas for wildlife to roam. This includes more than 566,000 acres in the Yellowstone National Park Region, which was the initial starting point of the program.
Recent highlights include retiring 2,000-acre Bull and Bay Pasture on Montana’s Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, 10,000 acre Wapiti allotment in Montana’s Gallatin National Forest and 45,000 acres on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana.
In coordination with federal land managers, NWF negotiates with livestock producers to retire livestock grazing allotments on public lands that experience chronic conflict with wildlife, especially wolves and grizzly bears. This market approach recognizes the economic value of livestock grazing permits and fairly compensates producers for retiring their leases. It also addresses the economic imbalance that exists because wildlife conservation interests are not allowed to compete with livestock producers for grazing leases on public lands. This approach establishes an important new national model for resolving conflicts between livestock and wildlife.
The efforts of Adopt-A-Wildlife-Acre are on-going to retire more acreage across the region in the effort to give wildlife the opportunity to roam and thrive in their native habitat.
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