- Investigates the causes of economic imbalances.
- Investigates causes tending to destroy or impair the free-market system.
- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
NWF resolves conflict between wildlife and livestock through the market approach of compensating ranchers for retiring problematic grazing leases on federal land. Restoring populations of large predators, such as wolves and grizzlies, 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 30 grazing allotments in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, totaling more than half a million acres. This approach establishes an important new national model for resolving conflicts between wildlife and livestock.
Dunoir Grazing Allotment © Rick Metzger
The 49,000-acre Dunoir grazing allotment, located on the Shoshone National Forest in northwestern Wyoming, has been a livestock/large carnivore problem spot for more than two decades. In its upper reaches along the forks of the East and West Dunoir Rivers (approximately 34,500 acres), it’s a pristine, backcountry area that receives heavy recreational use from hunters, hikers, horsemen and fishermen. The lower reaches of the allotment, near Long Creek (approximately 14,500 acres), have roads and modest development.
These public lands are a stronghold for grizzly bears. Wildlife scientists using radio telemetry have documented at least 52 individual bears using this area during the last decade. The upper Dunoir lies completely within the area that state and federal agencies have established as the Primary Conservation Area for grizzly bears; grizzlies are supposed to receive primary consideration in this zone.
The Washakie wolf pack has occupied the upper Dunoir area since 1999 and the pack has been as large as a dozen animals. This area is part of a larger region in northwestern Wyoming where the State of Wyoming has committed to maintaining at least seven breeding pairs of wolves.
The Dunoir has experienced more wildlife/livestock conflicts than any grazing allotment in the immediate area. Since 1991 government agencies have documented at least 31 cattle kills by grizzlies in this allotment. Gray wolves, which were reintroduced to the Yellowstone Ecosystem in 1994 and 1995, have killed at least 27 cattle, 8 dogs and 4 horses since 1999.
This area contains outstanding wildlife values. The East and West Dunoir drainages have historically provided important habitat for elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mule deer. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department report that the Dunoir is particularly important to elk in the spring and fall as they transition off, and onto, winter range. Both drainages are known to be important birthing areas for elk. Without livestock competition, food availability will be much higher.
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 works because it recognizes the economic value of grazing permits and compensates livestock producers fairly for giving them up.
The National Wildlife Federation'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 wildilfe on public lands have been ongoing for several decades. The tactic favored by most environmental groups has been to try and 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 five years the National Wildlife Federation has been able to retire 30 grazing allotments in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, totaling more than 500,000 acres. This has been accomplished with minimal controversy. We believe this approach begins to establish an important new national model for resolving conflicts between livestock and wildlife.
This project was completed in 2008. The Forest Service has since officially closed the allotment. For complete information on this project and other National Wildlife Federation grazing retirements in the Yellowstone area, go to www.nwf-wcr.org.
Project Link www.nwf-wcr.org
(Check sent: 4/27/2009)