The National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt-A-Wildlife-Acre started out 2015 with three major successes in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, eliminating wildlife/livestock conflicts on nearly 70,000 acres of public lands for less than $200,000! Most notably, these significant changes occurred voluntarily with little controversy.
Here’s how: NWF’s market-based program offers fair payment to ranchers in exchange for their agreement to retire grazing leases that experience chronic conflict with wildlife. When ranchers have problems with wildlife (disease, predation, etc.) it can cut into their bottom line. We offer payment sufficient to secure grazing in new locations without all the problems. A win for them and a win for wildlife. As rancher Rick Jarret, who recently completed a grazing retirement agreement with NWF, summed up, “I was looking for solutions, not playing politics, and so was NWF. I guess that’s why it worked so well.”
The early successes for 2015 include:
--the 22,000-acre Upper Gros Ventre cattle allotment on the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Jackson, Wyoming, a scene of repeated conflicts between cattle and large carnivores. This area contains extremely high quality habitat for grizzly bears and wolves, and much of it lies in designated wilderness. NWF was able to negotiate a retirement agreement for $100,000.
--the 36,000-acre Nicholia-Chandler domestic sheep allotment, on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in eastern Idaho. Domestic sheep have been passing diseases to bighorn sheep in this area for many decades, frequently resulting in large die-offs. The allotment cost $60,000 to retire.
--the 11,000-acre Billy Creek allotment on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR) in northeastern Montana. NWF has now developed grazing agreements on over 60,000 acres of the CMR: significant progress in turning it into the refuge it should be. The most recent agreement cost $37,000.
NWF’s grazing retirements provide significant benefits for multiple species. Conflict with livestock is a major barrier to the expansion of grizzly bear and wolf populations. Bison have not been allowed to leave Yellowstone National Park for fear they will transmit disease to cattle, but NWF’s grazing retirements are removing that concern. Retiring domestic sheep allotments that are adjacent to bighorn sheep herds provides relief from disease transmission, and has become an increasingly important focal point of NWF’s Adopt-A- Wildlife-Acre project.
Since the program began in 2002, Adopt-An-Acre has retired livestock grazing on more than 600,000 contentious acres of public land in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including many allotments that have been flashpoints for decades. Here’s a link to a map that displays where the retirements have occurred over the last thirteen years: http://nwf-wcr.org/PDFs/WCR-MAP-Yellowstone-Retirements-FINAL.pdf