Adopt A Wildlife Acre

by National Wildlife Federation
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Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep don
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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Bighorn and domestic sheep do not mix.
Bighorn and domestic sheep do not mix.

We are thrilled to report that last week, after three years of negotiation and collaboration with a Wyoming sheep producer, the National Wildlife Federation completed a grazing retirement to reduce wildlife / livestock conflict on 67,000 of public lands in the Wyoming Range south of Jackson, WY.  This grazing retirement protects critical high-elevation habitat for mule deer, bighorn sheep and a host of other native wildlife.  By compensating the rancher to waive his permit, he is able to purchase alternate grazing that minimizes wildlife / livestock conflict.  It's a win for wildlife and a win for a rancher who can now continue raising domestic sheep without harming wildlife.

After a century of continuous domestic sheep grazing, many areas of the Wyoming Range have degraded wildlife habitat and additionally pose a significant threat to bighorn sheep herds who are especially susceptible to disease transmission from their domestic counterparts.  In many situations, these disease outbreaks (a form of pneumonia) causes entire herds to die off.  For a species that once inhabitat nearly every mountain range in the intermountain west, bighorn sheep have suffered tremendous declines over the past centuryand current populations remain only a fraction of their historic abundance.  

We are making tremendous progress and are shifting grazing patterns in the West to accomodate wildlife and secure a future for domestic livestock production.  To date, NWF has retired over 1.1 million acres in the West to benefit wildlife, including bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, wolves, and native fisheries.  

We have several exciting opportunities on the horizon, including a critical 85,000 acre allotment in central Idaho where domestic sheep pose a significant risk to endangered Chinook salmon.  Many thanks to our supporters for making this tremendous progress capable!

The Wyoming Range runs north-south 80 miles
The Wyoming Range runs north-south 80 miles
The WY Range offers rough and rugged terrain
The WY Range offers rough and rugged terrain
Hayden Valley, YNP (photo Alex Hughes)
Hayden Valley, YNP (photo Alex Hughes)

In a huge victory for wildlife, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock last month granted wild bison more room to roam around Yellowstone National Park. It’s the first time in 30 years that bison can migrate safely – and without harassment – outside the park! 

Join us in thanking Gov. Bullock for expanding habitat for wild bison and helping public lands be the home to wildlife they were mean to be.

You may ask, Why now? Gov. Bullock pointed to reduced livestock/wildlife conflicts as the main reason for issuing his decision. That means NWF's Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program is working!  NWF has worked tirelessly with cattle ranchers, the Park Service and the Forest Service to allow for year round tolerance of bison as they migrate out of the Park during the winter months searching for forage.  By retiring key grazing allotments north and west of Yellowstone (Horse Butte, Slip n Slide, Royal Teton Ranch) concerns of disease being spread from bison to cattle has all but been eliminated. 

Governor Bullock noted specifically:

-Cattle are no longer found on Horse Butte because of change in ownership and subsequent changes in land use

-On the west side of the park, there are no active cattle allotments on the public lands which constitute over 96% of the area to be accessed by bison.

Of course, this isn’t the end of our work restoring wild bison.

With help from generous people like you, we’ve eliminated conflict on over a million acres of public land, through voluntary negotiations, retiring grazing leases often provides long-term security to both western ranchers dependent on public lands to make a living and the wildlife who depend on those lands to survive. In the coming years, we hope to double the number, giving wildlife like bison and bighorn sheep safe spaces to roam their natural habitats.

Bison calf in Yellowstone (credit: Robin Poole)
Bison calf in Yellowstone (credit: Robin Poole)
Bison in the Lamar Valley
Bison in the Lamar Valley

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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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Organization Information

National Wildlife Federation

Location: Reston, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.nwf.org/​
Project Leader:
Kit Fischer
Reston, VA United States
$346,096 raised of $450,000 goal
 
949 donations
$103,904 to go
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