- Explores and develops market-based solutions.
WildEarth Guardians received a $25,000 grant from the Alex C. Walker Foundation to protect the threatened wildlands and endangered wildlife of the Greater Gila Ecosystem through a market-based approach that retires high conflict cattle grazing allotments on national forest lands. In 2013 we signed an agreement with a New Mexico rancher on the Deep Creek Allotment of the Gila National Forest to retire a 30,000-acre allotment in the heart of the Greater Gila. On April 21, 2014 we financially compensated this rancher for relinquishing his 30,000-acre grazing allotment, which will now be administratively retired by the Gila National Forest. This successful pilot will be leveraged as we hope to sign several additional retirement agreements in the next 12 months. This administrative retirement and the additional ones we hope to complete this year will demonstrate the feasibility of this market-based approach to solving cattle grazing conflicts and furthering Mexican gray wolf conservation.
WildEarth Guardians Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery & Grazing Permit Retirement strategy aims to not only maximize Mexican gray wolf recovery but leverage congressional designation of over two million acres of national forest wilderness. Now having completed our first buyout and administrative retirement, we are even more excited about our larger goal to retire grazing on upwards of 2,000,000 acres of public lands in the Greater Gila. We continue to be optimistic for several reasons. 1) We already have a signed agreement with an Arizona rancher to retire a 30,000-acre grazing allotment; 2) We are already engaging six other ranchers who were very excited to see us complete our first buyout agreement, 2-3 of whom we expect to sign agreements with by the end of 2014; 3) Our agreements ensure our rancher allies will actively support congressional legislation to make permit retirement permanent; 4) We have already raised and paid $500,000 to execute our first agreement, and are currently working to raise an anticipated $500,000 to $1,000,000 of additional funding we will need for the additional allotment retirements we expect to complete this year; 5) Thanks to Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), legislation has been introduced and passed successfully out of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee that authorizes voluntary retirements on up to 25 allotments each in New Mexico and Oregon.
This project meets the Alex C. Walker Foundation’s purpose of exploring and developing market-based solutions. WildEarth Guardians has invested significant financial and intellectual resources over the past several years to promote a market-based solution to protect our environment by implementing a voluntary grazing permit retirement pilot project in a key wildlife/livestock conflict area in the Greater Gila, which we hoped will spur additional retirements. This strategy has been used successfully in the Greater Yellowstone area and Oregon and we wish to demonstrate fully that this approach can be used in the Greater Gila area, to the benefit of everyone involved, which we have now partially done. In the coming nine months we believe we will inspire several additional ranchers to sign retirement agreements, which will be collectively passed through congress, making the administrative retirement of the Deep Creek and additional allotments permanent. We have demonstrated this works as a pilot project and now continue our efforts to replicate this work across the Greater Gila.
Conflicts between ranchers and conservationists occur on public lands across the west, with increasing frequency. We have demonstrated the utility of a market-based solution to end these conflicts through voluntary grazing buyouts, which we are starting to replicate across the Greater Gila Bioregion to facilitate Mexican gray wolf conservation. Over the long term, this same strategy/tool can potentially be replicated across the American West where ranchers and conservationists have conflicts on public lands.
Dissemination of results and progress thus far has focused on outreach to area ranchers through both word of mouth and face-to-face meetings; in early 2012 we even did a mailing to all permitees on both the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests that has led to numerous additional interested parties. In February 2014 High Country News wrote a feature length story on this project, which we are using in our outreach to elected officials and congressional staffers, key stakeholders and both current and potential financial supporters. We continue to reach out to relevant NGO’s that work in the Greater Gila in order to gain their support for our strategy and in engaging elected officials and agency personnel who either help represent or make land use decisions that could impact this work; this outreach is happening primarily through letters and face-to-face meetings. We are informing WildEarth Guardians members and the general public through regular WildEarth Guardians publications and social and traditional media outlets. All of this outreach and dissemination aims to build support for our strategy so that we, and others, can replicate this market based-solution across both the Greater Gila and the wider American west where rancher/conservationist conflicts occur on public lands.
(Check sent: 7/5/2011)
Grazing Permit Retirement Map. Red shows permit retirements in negotiation, pink shows target permits for negotiation. Tan shows Federal grazing allotments within the National Forests and Wilderness Areas.
Mexican Wolf by Evalyn Bemis
John Horning, Director of Wild Earth Guardians, identifying US Forest Service land leased for cattle grazing
Cattle on Gila National Forest grazing a lease area that suffered a forest fire several years ago