Reducing conflict on public lands

While on a short trip to Idaho I came across this great article on grazing and endangered species and so I’ve written a brief synopsis of the article for those that may be interested.

In the Northern Rockies region the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has been compensating ranchers who give up their grazing rights on federal lands. “It’s a win-win for the ranchers and for the Grizzly Bears and Wolves and other wildlife” says one U.S. official.

Some ranchers have stopped using part of their grazing allotments and an innovative NWF program compensates the rancher for giving up the grazing rights which the public agency in charge then permanently retires. One rancher, who had an allotment on the Gallatin National Forest, recently took home a check for $50,000; the bison, grizzlies, and wolves got the land and both parties left the table satisfied with the end result. To date this program has taken cattle and sheep off more than 600,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.

The program has won cautious acceptance from livestock groups. Errol Rice, executive vice president of the Montana Stock-Growers Association says that “If a rancher feels it is in his best interests to participate, we support that decision”.

The NWF program is not new and models a similar plan started by bighorn sheep hunters in the 1980’s. When bighorn numbers had dropped from 2 million to around 15,000 the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep began to buy up and retire grazing permits in bighorn habitat areas; they were the pioneers.

There are many benefits to this program: financial compensation to the ranchers, separates sheep and cattle from wolves and grizzlies diffuses controversy, and reduces the need to kill or remove animals preying on cattle and sheep. The innovative program has even reached out to private landowners and brokered a deal on National Wildlife Refuge land. There is still work to be done and new twists and angles to be explored but the success of the program is evident in its accomplishments.

Find out more about this NWF program and read the full story