Panorama Pronghorn
Pronghorn antelope. The National Wildlife Federation is working to reduce conflict between livestock and wildlife through the market approach of purchasing and retiring grazing leases on federal land. Photo by Barrett Walker on site visit.
Project Report:
Wildlife Conflict Resolution Project (Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge)
- 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 30 grazing allotments in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, totaling more than half a million acres. More recently, NWF experimented with an auction concept to retire grazing permits on the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR). NWF has now retired 60,000 acres of important wildlife habitat on the CMR. This approach establishes an important new national model for resolving chronic conflicts between wildlife and livestock.

Missouri River Break
Missouri Break, overlooking the River from grazing lease #5 within the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge.


Many thanks for the Walker Foundation’s generous grant to the National Wildlife Federation to assist with grazing retirements on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR). Since we started this work in 2009 we have retired nearly 65,000 acres. More importantly, through our market approach we have resolved longstanding conflicts between wildlife and livestock.

Since early 2011, we have developed agreements that restrict livestock grazing on two significant refuge habitat management units (HMUS): the 2,000-acre Bull and Bay Pastures in the Carpenter Creek HMU and the 1,300-acre Bay Pasture in the Bobcat Creek HMU. Total retirement cost for these two areas was $36,800, which your grant helped pay for. For a map that displays the location of these HMUS, please go to and click on "maps".

The National Wildlife Federation continues to work in close partnership with the American Prairie Reserve (APR) to develop an ecologically-significant area of prairie habitat large enough to sustain a free-ranging bison population. While APR focuses on private lands, NWF takes the lead on creating more favorable wildlife habitat on the CMR itself. NWF has also taken the lead role in advocating for bison restoration through various state and federal planning documents.

The Walker Foundation has been a supporter of our efforts to reduce conflicts between wildlife and livestock from the very beginning, and we deeply appreciate your continued endorsement. Our grazing retirement successes have gained considerable notice in the northern Rockies and we believe this same method can be used to resolve wildlife/livestock conflicts in other regions of the country.

Again, we thank you for your support and look forward to continued partnership for years to come.


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 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 eight years the National Wildlife Federation has been able to retire 30 grazing allotments in the Yellowstone ecosystem, totaling more than 650,000 acres. In our first two years of work on the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge, NWF has been able to retire 60,000 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.

Amount Approved
$30,000.00 on 6/2/2011 (Check sent: 7/5/2011)

  Related Organizations
National Wildlife Federation  

Panorama Pronghorn
Missouri River Break

PO Box 7465
Missoula, MT 59807
Missoula, MT 59807

(406) 721-6705
(406) 541-6731

Posted 3/22/2011 5:03 PM
Updated   3/27/2012 1:00 PM

  • Nonprofit

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