The National Wildlife Federation

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Adopt a Wildlife Acre Program

Adopt a Wildlife Acre

Conflicts between livestock and wildlife on public lands have been ongoing for decades. When federal agencies created public land grazing allotments more than a century ago, they were permitted almost anywhere grass was available. But as conservation on public lands evolved, the need to weigh and balance competing uses increased. This became more acute as Congress passed new laws dealing with multiple-use, conservation of watersheds, and protection of endangered species.

In situations where conflicts between livestock and wildlife are prolonged and intractable, the National Wildlife Federation believes that grazing retirements represent an equitable solution for livestock and wildlife interests. You can help—Adopt a Wildlife Acre today.

Where's the Conflict?

Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone is home to the most diverse assortment of wildlife found anywhere in North America. But once these iconic species leave the protected borders of the park—they are often at odds with neighboring ranchers who utilize public lands for livestock grazing. Grizzly bears and wolves are often killed or relocated when they attack livestock on National Forest lands where ranchers hold grazing privileges. In addition, magnificent wildlife including bison and bighorn sheep face great risks when they leave the park because of diseases they either carry or diseases that they may acquire from neighboring livestock.

Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge: This incredible 1.1-million-acre refuge, along with adjacent public land, contains more intact shortgrass prairie habitat than anywhere else in America. Yet livestock still graze on much of the refuge, and species like sage-grouse, pronghorn antelope, elk and mule deer must compete with livestock for habitat.

Our Solution: Adopt a Wildlife Acre

The National Wildlife Federation’s Adopt a Wildlife Acre program addresses the conflicts between livestock and wildlife with a voluntary, market-based approach. We offer ranchers a fair price in exchange for their agreement to retire their public land grazing leases.

In most cases, livestock producers use our funds to relocate their livestock to areas without conflict. Wildlife has secure habitat, and rancher’s cattle can graze in an area with fewer problems. It’s a win-win situation!

What began as a small program retiring a few acres here and there has grown into a force of National Wildlife Federation members and supporters investing over $5 million towards grazing retirements and securing more than 750,000 acres of vital habitat for wildlife!

The program's top five priorities:

How Does It Work?

The National Wildlife Federation contacts ranchers who hold leases on allotments that are on our priority list for retirement. If the rancher is interested, we negotiate a price. We base the value for retiring the allotment on the number of livestock that graze a particular allotment. All agreements that are made are completely voluntary.

Next, we approach the land management agency (the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service) to make sure they are willing to permanently close the allotment.

When all three parties voluntarily agree, the agency retires the grazing permit. Through this program, we recognize the economic value of livestock grazing permits and fairly compensate ranchers for retiring their leases.

Species You Can Help

American Bison

American Bison—The American bison is an iconic symbol of the great American West. Once there were more than 50 million bison roaming the U.S. But today there are only a few thousand roaming free and managed as wildlife. When they leave the protected boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, they’re often killed by government agents in fear they’ll spread disease to nearby cattle. In one recent hard winter when many bison left the high elevation Park in search for food, more than 1,600 were killed.

Gray Wolf

Gray Wolf—The gray wolf was reintroduced to the Yellowstone area in 1995, and National Wildlife Federation was a leader in that effort. But more and more conflict with livestock has occurred as wolves have occupied new habitat across the west.

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear—Like the gray wolf, the Yellowstone grizzly population is much more secure when it remains in the park and its surrounding wilderness. When bears kill livestock on public lands near the park, government agents are often required to either kill or move them. The only significant grizzly populations remaining in the lower 48 states are in the Greater Yellowstone Area and in northwestern Montana, including Glacier National Park.

Bighorn sheep photo by William Borne

Bighorn Sheep—Diseases carried by domestic sheep are readily transferred to wild bighorn sheep populations and have caused long-term population declines in many areas across the west. Domestic sheep grazing on public lands near occupied bighorn sheep habitat pose a significant threat to the survival of this species.

Retired Wildlife Acre Allotments

The National Wildlife Federation has been hard at work since 2002 retiring livestock grazing allotments in the Yellowstone ecosystem, and more recently in the spectacular 1.1 million-acre Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Montana.

Through the National Wildlife Federation's Adopt a Wildlife Acre program, we have secured almost 700,000 acres of critical habitat in Yellowstone.

Animals such as grizzlies, wolves, and bison that experience conflict with livestock now live securely thanks to these adopted and retired acres.

Thank you to our amazing members and supporters who have helped make this happen and given wildlife more room to roam.

BEAR CANYON/INDIAN CREEK (two allotments, RETIRED 2013)

Location: SW Montana in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
Size: 12,069 acres
Wildlife: Bighorn sheep
Conflict:Domestic sheep are known to transmit diseases to bighorn sheep that can result in dramatic die-offs of the wild sheep

SLIP AND SLIDE (RETIRED 2011)

Location: SW Montana in the Gallatin National Forest
Size: 7,235 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, wolves, bison
Conflict: Chronic trouble with cattle transmitting disease to grizzly bears, wolves, bison

WILLOW CREEK (RETIRED 2011)

Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest
Size: 38,773 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, wolves, cutthroat trout
Conflict: Chronic conflict between grizzly bears, wolves, cutthroat trout and cattle livestock

WAPITI (RETIRED 2010)

Location: Southwestern Montana
Size: 10,000 acres
Wildlife: Bison
Conflict: Bison were killed when they wandered outside Yellowstone National Park in search of food, for fear they would spread disease to cattle grazing nearby.

ROYAL TETON (RETIRED 2009)

Location: SW Montana, northern border of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 6,000 acres
Wildlife: Bison
Conflict: Bison were killed in fear they would spread disease to local grazing livestock. Now, we’ve secured a 30-year leasing agreement to prohibit livestock grazing on Royal Teton Ranch. This has created a bison corridor along Yellowstone River that is a safe winter migration path for these animals.

CACHE-ELDRIDGE (RETIRED 2008)

Location: SW Montana in the Gallatin National Forest, NW of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 9,200 acres
Wildlife: Bison, grizzly bears, gray wolves
Conflict: Chronic conflict between large carnivores and cattle, possible bison habitat

DUNOIR GRAZING ALLOTMENT (RETIRED 2008)

Location: NW Wyoming in the Shoshone National Forest, South of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 34,500 acre allotment
Wildlife: Gray wolves, grizzly bears, elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep
Conflict: Severe conflict between cattle and wolves/grizzly bears; important winter range for elk, deer

ICEHOUSE/WILLOW CREEK (RETIRED 2008)

Location: East Idaho on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, West of Yellowstone National Park
Size: Five allotments secured as part of the Icehouse/Willow Creek retirement totaling 33,714 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves
Conflict: Grizzly bears and wolves preying on domestic sheep, being killed in return

BACON CREEK/FISH CREEK (RETIRED 2007)

Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, South of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 178,000 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, elk, moose
Conflict: Grizzlies and wolves were experiencing chronic conflict with grazing livestock. Cattle were consuming forage important to wintering elk and moose.

ASH MOUNTAIN/IRON MOUNTAIN (RETIRED 2006)

Location: SW Montana in the Gallatin National Forest, NE side of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 74,000 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bighorn sheep
Conflict: This was a domestic sheep grazing allotment that experienced chronic problems with grizzly bears and wolves, which were sometimes killed in response to depredations. The domestic sheep were also believed to transmit diseases to nearby wild bighorn sheep.

JIM MOUNTAIN/DUNN CREEK/TROUT CREEK (RETIRED 2005)

Location: NW Wyoming on the Shoshone National Forest, East of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 16,800 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bighorn sheep
Conflict: Long-term conflict between gray wolves and grazing sheep, disease issues with bighorns

WYOMING RANGE (RETIRED 2005)

Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, South of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 67,500 acres
Wildlife: Gray wolves, bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, grizzly bears
Conflict: Chronic conflict between sheep and wolves

CANYON BADLANDS (RETIRED 2004)

Location: NW Wyoming in the Targhee National Forest, East of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 12,000 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bighorn sheep
Conflict: Grizzly bears and wolves preying on domestic sheep, sheep transmitting diseases to wild bighorns

ISLAND PARK (RETIRED 2004)

Location: Eastern Idaho on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, West of Yellowstone National Park
Size: Three allotments totaling 12,526 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears and wolves
Conflict: Long history of problems between grizzly bears and sheep. Retiring this acreage ended these conflicts and promoted connectivity in a critical wildlife corridor between Yellowstone, the Centennial Mountains, and the large central Idaho wilderness areas to the west.

MOOSE CREEK (RETIRED 2004)

Location: NW Wyoming in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, South of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 24,500 acres
Wildlife: Moose, grizzly bears, black bears, gray wolves, bison, mule deer, elk
Conflict: Grizzly bears and sheep, major problem with domestic sheep transmitting disease to nearby bighorn herds

BLACKROCK/SPREAD CREEK (RETIRED 2003)

Location: NW Wyoming in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, South of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 87,000 acres
Wildlife: Grizzly bears, gray wolves, bison
Conflict: This allotment experienced more conflicts between cattle and grizzly bears than any other in the Yellowstone ecosystem.

HORSE BUTTE PENINSULA (RETIRED 2003)

Location: SW Montana on the Gallatin National Forest, West of Yellowstone National Park
Size: 2,200 acres
Wildlife: Bison
Conflict: Horse Butte has the distinction of being the very first allotment the National Wildlife Federation retired. Bison would wander onto Horse Butte in the winter and early spring in search of grass and would be shot. Now, Horse Butte is a safe place where they can graze.

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