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
West Fork of the Madison
West Fork of the Madison

We are excited to report National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has recently completed an agreement with a cattle ranching operation west of Yellowstone National Park protecting grizzly bears on nearly 40,000 acres! We have a fundraising goal of $200,000 to complete this project.

The project area is near the Idaho/ Montana border along the West Fork of the Madison River (known as the West Fork grazing allotment). The West Fork has an extremely high density of grizzly bears and is an essential corridor for expanding grizzly populations to the west of the Park.  Unfortunately, over the past decade, this cattle allotment has experienced some of the highest rates of conflict in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, resulting in the removal of bears that have predated on livestock.  

The agreement we developed with the rancher is three years in the making and is a novel approach in resolving livestock / grizzly bear conflicts.  NWF invested with the new rancher in purchasing the grazing permit from the former operator of the allotment.  This allowed NWF to develop a legal agreement with the new rancher in how they would graze livestock on the permit.  Simply put, the agreement provides the rancher much flexibility in terms of how they graze, but there is zero tolerance for bears being removed from the area as a consequence of their grazing.  If depredation occurs on the allotment, it is the livestock that are moved off, not the bears.  We believe an economic solution to natural resource conflicts is one of the most effective way to ensure landowners and ranchers are brought along as partners in conservation.  

Our hope is this agreement may serve as a model for other conflict grazing areas in the future.  While many of our previous agreements resulted in the permanent retirement of grazing on an allotment, we realize the same outcome of reducing large carnivore conflict may be achieved through other means.  We also believe that no landscape and no two conflicts are the same and we must be able to work closely with private landowners and ranchers if we want to see long term recovery of species like grizzlies and wolves on the landscape.  

Cattle Grazing on the West Fork Allotment
Cattle Grazing on the West Fork Allotment
Grizzly Conflicts on the West Fork
Grizzly Conflicts on the West Fork
Grizzly Bear GPS locations West Fork
Grizzly Bear GPS locations West Fork
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Photo by Dan Stahler
Photo by Dan Stahler

As we described in a report last summer, NWF expanded its Adopt a Wildlife Acre Programs to address the planned reintroduction of wolves into Colorado thanks to the passage of Proposition 114 in November of last year. The Proposition mandates that the State of Colorado transplant wolves into the West Slope of the state by the end of 2023. Amazingly, however, wolves have found their way naturally to Colorado from Wyoming and in an exciting development, at least eight wolves (including 6 new pups!) were located near North Park, Colorado in 2021 – the first successful litter of pups born in Colorado in over 80 years. Unfortunately, in December 2021 and January 2022, this newly established wolf pack was confirmed to have caused the death of three cattle and two dogs in North Park. While Colorado is in the process of developing a long-term plan to avoid and manage wolf-livestock conflicts, state wildlife managers have been caught by surprise by the recently confirmed depredations, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Unless there are immediate and well-designed approaches to deter existing wolves from preying on domestic animals in North Park, the wolf pack may become more habituated to livestock, and depredations may increase. Consequently, there will be increasing calls for the removal of the North Park wolves, and, perhaps most importantly, the future reintroduction of wolves into Colorado will begin under a growing shroud of opposition that will compromise long-term success.

In response, The National Wildlife Federation, in partnership with Working Circle and Defenders of Wildlife, have been building relationships with local North Park ranchers and developing a plan that is ready to implement in meeting three major objectives: (1) reduce or stop the depredation of livestock by North Park wolves, (2) build relationships and trust with the local ranching community, and (3) demonstrate successful practices and partnerships that show how to address rancher’s concerns while reducing opposition to the presence of wolves in rural Colorado. To date, our coalition has been successful in preventing additional livestock deaths, but the work will continue through the spring and summer when we will need to redouble our efforts.

If we are able to obtain adequate funding, our coalition will continue our intensive work with ranchers in North Park to put conflict reduction measures in place, collaborate with state and federal wildlife managers to inform best practices, demonstrate the power of public-private partnerships, and apply the work in North Park to inform the State of Colorado’s long-term wolf reintroduction and management plan. In addition to on-the-ground conflict reduction practices, a key component of this plan will be to develop and disseminate messaging that supports this conflict reduction work and, in addition, provides science-based information as a foil to the emerging narrative that wolves and ranchers cannot coexist.

NWF is seeking $150,000 to enact this plan immediately. This is a unique opportunity to support an immediate need that can directly support wolves on the ground, reduce rural-urban tensions that could upend wolf reintroduction, and set a foundation that supports the long-term success of wolves in Colorado. If you would lke more information, please contact Bob McCready at mccreadyb@nwf.org

Photo by Andrew Ketsdever
Photo by Andrew Ketsdever
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Chief Mountain  Blackfeet Reservation cr. McCollum
Chief Mountain Blackfeet Reservation cr. McCollum

We are pleased to report that after several years of researching and developing a strategy to address tribal grazing lease conflicts, NWF and our partners succesfully negotiated a grazing agreement on the Blackfeet Reservation in northern Montana.  The agreement, with the support of the Blackfeet Tribal Council, converts the allotments into "owner's use" status for the benefit of fish and wildlife habitat conservation. The six tribal grazing leases bordering Glacier National Park's eastern boundary are collectively named the Chief Mountain Unit (Ninnaastakoo) and span some 24,000 acres.  This wildlife rich region is home to elk, mule deer, grizzlies, wolves and abundant bird life.  The Blackfeet Reservation spans some 1.5 million acres and its biodiversity is unparalled.  

The Chief Mountain Area is of special cultural significance to the Blackfeet and preserving and protecting this region has been a priority of the tribe for years.  Sharing a border with Glacier National Park has also created unique challenges for both the Park Service and the tribe in maintaining livestock infrastructure and addressing livestock conflicts, including grizzly bears which frequent the area.  By transferring these permits to owner's use, the tribe has committed resting these pasture through at least 2029.  Our goal is to support  our partners and tribal allies to develop a plan that will help compensate the lost revenue to allotees and provide a rich wildlife area with climate resilience and high quality habitat. 

National Wildlife Federation is honored to have played a small role in this work and supporting the Blackfeet Tribe in restoring this landsacpe and benefitting a myriad of fish and wildlife species.  In particular, this grazing agreement may open up the door for further conversation around restoring bison to the Chief Mountain area, including Glacier National Park.  This work also serves as a model for other opportunities to resolve livestock / wildlife conflict on tribal lands. Stay tuned!

NWF welcomes your support of this exciting project. We are actively fundraising to meet our goal of $15,000 by December 31.

Map of Chief Mountain Range Units
Map of Chief Mountain Range Units
Elk are a focal species in this area cr: McCulloch
Elk are a focal species in this area cr: McCulloch
Grizzly near East Glacier cr: Hughes
Grizzly near East Glacier cr: Hughes

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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
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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

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Organization Information

National Wildlife Federation

Location: Reston, VA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Kit Fischer
Reston, VA United States
$401,490 raised of $450,000 goal
 
2,068 donations
$48,510 to go
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