- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) resolves conflict between wildlife and livestock through the market approach of compensating ranchers for retiring problematic grazing leases on federal land. Restoring wildlife populations has been linked to recovering healthy, functioning ecosystems in the Northern Rockies. Thanks to the Walker Foundation and other funders, NWF has been able to retire 37 grazing allotments in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, totaling approximately 650,000 acres. NWF has also retired nearly 65,000 acres of important wildlife habitat on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR). In addition, NWF has launched a bighorn sheep campaign, focused on retiring grazing allotments (largely ID, MT and WY) where disease conflicts have occured between domestic sheep and wild sheep. We believe this approach establishes an important new national model for resolving chronic conflicts between wildlife and livestock.
I'm updating the Foundation on our grazing retirement work and thanking you for the recent $25,000 grant to support our wildlife conflict resolution program. We have seen an unprecedented amount of interest from ranchers this past year and in 2015 alone, NWF has converted almost 300,000 acres of public lands back into conflict-free wildlife habitat. Since the Adopt-A-Wildlife Acre program was founded in 2002, the National Wildlife Federation has resolved conflicts on over 1 million acres for wildlife in the west.
In August, we finalized a grazing agreement on the Limestone Irving / Middle Creek domestic sheep grazing allotments in the Centennial Mountains, straddling the high divide of the Montana / Idaho border, west of Yellowstone National Park totaling 82,000 acres.
This Limestone Irving / Middle Creek retirement, with seven allotments in total, is one of the largest and most important retirements NWF has negotiated on the High Divide, a critical East to West wildlife corridor between Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and Yellowstone National Park. Domestic sheep allotments in the area have faced chronic conflicts with both large carnivores and bighorn sheep.
The domestic sheep allotments retired are adjacent to occupied bighorn sheep habitat in Montana’s Tendoy Mountains. We focused our efforts in this region because the bighorn herd in the Tendoys has dwindled in recent years due to disease transmission that likely occurred from co-mingling between the two species. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will be culling the existing herd in the Tendoys this fall and plans to reintroduce clean bighorn sheep to the region in the coming year. Due to this critical retirement, bighorn sheep will have a fighting chance for a comeback in the Tendoy Mountains and their range and populations will be allowed to expand south to the Lima Peaks area and over the Idaho border.
Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program Manager
National Wildlife Federation Northern Rockies and Pacific Regional Center
Because wildlife conservation interests are not allowed to compete with livestock producers for grazing leases on public lands, the market system is constrained from finding an appropriate balance between the need for livestock grazing and the need for wildlife. Our approach recognizes the economic value of grazing permits and compensates livestock producers fairly for giving them up. NWF's approach of paying ranchers to retire grazing leases where there is chronic conflict between livestock and wildlife provides a market-based solution for resolving these conflicts. To the extent ranchers typically use the payments provided to them by NWF to secure new grazing in an area without wildlife conflicts, this approach provides benefits for both parties.
Conflicts between livestock and wildlife on public lands have been ongoing for several decades. The tactic favored by most environmental groups has been to compel federal agencies to administratively cancel troublesome leases. This approach has generated a great deal of controversy, but only a small amount of change. Using a market approach, during the last ten years the National Wildlife Federation has been able to retire 37 grazing allotments in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, totaling approximately 650,000 acres. In our first five years of work on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, NWF has been able to retire over 65,000 acres. These retirements have been accomplished with minimal controversy. We believe this approach begins to establish an important new national model for resolving conflicts between livestock and wildlife.
(Check sent: 7/13/2015)