- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates the effect of the global financial system and/or the monetary system in fostering a sustainable economy.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
The NWF Wildlife Conflict Resolution program resolves conflicts between wildlife and livestock through the market-based approach of compensating ranchers for retiring high conflict grazing leases on federal land. Thanks to over a decade of funding from the Walker Foundation,we have retired over 75 grazing allotments totaling over 1.6 million acres. In 2017 NWF launched the WCR Southern Rockies, Colorado Plateau and Great Basin program and in the coming year we will pilot a new strategy in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in southern Utah that we are describing as "AUM buy-downs." We are also launching the Western Waters Program that will largely focus on restoration of Colorado River Basin watersheds using beaver analog structures also known as Low Tech Process Restoration. This work will seek to institutionalize LTPBR in the Bureau of Land Management and to prioritize the retirement of grazing allotments that significantly impact downstream water quantity and quality.
Lake Mead and Lake Powell, on the Colorado River, are the largest reservoirs in the United States. This view of Glenn Canyon Dam shows the low water level of Lake Powell. At the time our our site visit the Lake was at 24% of capacity. The Bureau of Reclamation reduced its data on the storage capacity due to sediment accumulated in the bottom of the reservoir. Overgrazing by cattle removes vegetation and accelerates erosion, reducing the capacity of the reservoir.
Although we are just beginning to execute this year's grant, we wanted to provide an early update and will continue to periodically update the report. To launch the effort, we organized a visit with Walker Foundation board members to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in early October of this year. The objective of the trip was to explore the area by air, vehicle and foot to get a sense of the impact of livestock grazing in this vary arid and fragile ecosystem across this very geologically diverse and botanically rich area with the goal of using our 20-year old compensated grazing permit waiver strategy across the Monument. In the coming year, we will work with our partner the Grand Canyon Trust to begin engaging local ranchers and grazing allotment permit holders as a first step in negotiating compensated grazing permit buy-outs and to explore the potential of AUM buy-downs. Our partner, the Grand Canyon Trust holds four grazing permits in the Monument and has just finalized waiving one of its these back to BLM and as directed by President's Biden's proclamation, has a commitment from the agency that the allotment will not be restocked with livestock. The Trust plans to waive the remaining three permits in the coming months. The result of these permit waivers will be to establish precedent and compliance with the Biden Proclamation so that NWF staff can begin engaging local ranchers regarding the potential for waiving their permits. As a first step, NWF staff will in January, meet with Trust staff to develop the action plan for carrying out these activities.
While on the site visit, it became abundantly evident that the Colorado River as evidenced by Lake Powell, is running at historic lows, an indication of the Colorado River basin water crisis. This led to several days of conversations and brainstorming, resulting in the addition of a water conservation strategy for the Colorado River Basin in this year's proposal. In the face of climate change, over a century of land degradation and increasing water withdrawals, two things need to occur. First, there must be a reduction in withdrawals by agriculture, which uses over 80% of the Colorado Basin's water; and second, large-scale habitat restoration needs to occur in riparian and key upland areas throughout the basin. The timing of these conversations and additional funding received from the Walker Foundation was good given that NWF is in the final stages of hiring a director for our new Western Waters Program. One of the early objectives of the program will be to expand NWF's beaver transplant and "low-tech process-based restoration" (LT-PBR) work from Montana to the Colorado Basin. We will add that NWF will likely receive a significant grant from a very large foundation in the near future that will fund an expansive effort to implement such projects in targeted areas in the Basin. This Foundation has asked NWF to focus its efforts on headwaters restoration project with an emphasis on using beaver transplants and LT-PBR projects to increase water in the tributaries and ultimately, the main stem of the Colorado River. We should note that the issue of putting additional water in the system without simultaneously addressing water withdrawals is being addressed by this same large foundations which is funding a number of organizations that are working on reducing agricultural use and other major water uses in the Basin. NWF is pleased with the prospect of being a member of the Colorado River Collaborative which includes organizations such as The Nature Conservancy, Western Resources Advocates, Trout Unlimited and the Environmental Defense Fund.
Although we are just beginning this work, we are hoping to use the Walker Foundation funds to catalyze work in Southern Utah as a proof-of-concept that can serve at a model for work elsewhere in the Basin. As a first step, we have already entered into conversations with the Grand Canyon Trust and other partners regarding the potential to pilot beaver transplants and LT-PBR structures in the Monument, but also in higher elevations that abut the Monument on USFS land in the Dixie National Forest. We believe there are good opportunities given that there is a nascent coalition of NGO's who have begun exploring beaver and beaver dam analog projects. The effort lacks leadership and our hope is that NWF can provide this and build additional momentum with an early goal of gaining the support of BLM Monument staff as well as those in the USFS.
Upper Calf Creek Falls. Twenty years ago, The Grand Canyon Trust purchased the grazing lease that Calf Creek flows through and removed cattle, allowing the surrounding habitat and the stream to recover. This is the only clear-water stream we saw in the area.
Beginning in 2001, NWF began using a market-based approach that recognized the economic value of grazing permits and offer to compensate ranchers for waiving their permit. We then receive assurances for from the agency that the allotment will not be restocked with livestock. In an effort to constantly innovate, we will adapt our allotment retirement model in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by testing what we are calling "AUM buy-downs." In addition, with the launch of the Western Waters Program, we will scale-up a key natural infrastructure river restoration strategy in the Colorado Basin. Although much of the work will be focused on an effort to institutionalize LTPBR tools in BLM to increase water storage and habitat restoration, the program will expand the market-based strategies used by the WCR program to reduce grazing pressure in areas that will most benefit aquatic and riparian habitat restoration as well as water storage, downstream flows and water quality.
NWF has used this approach to address conflicts between large carnivores in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for the last 20 years and in addition has employed the strategy to reduce conflicts between domestic and bighorn sheep. Because of the absence of large carnivores in the Southern Rockies and Great Basin, we have only focused on retiring domestic sheep allotments. With the recent proclamation re-constituting the Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments in Utah, we will be investing time and resources in allotment retirement and AUM buy-down efforts in Utah in the coming year. New this year, will be our focus on restoring headwaters systems in the Colorado River Basin scaling up our successful LTPBR work in Montana and the Dakotas.
(Check sent: 10/28/2022)