A coalition of livestock producers, tribes, nonprofits, and landowner groups that sprawls from Montana to New Mexico was awarded a federal grant of nearly $1 million to reduce conflicts between people and predators — especially grizzly bears and wolves.
The $894,000 Conservation Innovation Grant awarded last week comes from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Half of the 20 groups in the coalition awarded that money are in Montana. The grant provides three-year funding with one central goal.
"To scale up conflict reduction efforts," says Alex Few.
Few is with Western Landowners Alliance, which is part of the coalition receiving the funds. Few said grizzlies and wolves can be an economic burden on ranchers and farmers, but certain practices can help all those parties get along. The grant specifically funds researching ways to make that happen, like livestock carcass removal programs, electric fencing, and range riding, or specially trained people who travel with herds to keep them safe from predators.
"You know, it’s not research going on in academia in isolation from regular landowner input. The research is integrated with landowner implementation across a broad landscape."
Grizzly bear and wolf populations have come a long way since they were first listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act in 1975. The Trump Administration announced that gray wolves across the country would be removed from that list in late October, but they’ve been delisted in Montana since 2011. Grizzlies are still protected, but numbers of both animals have skyrocketed over the last four-and-a-half decades.
The state of Montana doled out more money than ever before for livestock lost to grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions last year. It was the third year in a row that record was broken.
Few said reducing conflicts is particularly important for the continued recovery of these species since private land serves as crucial habitat for the animals. She also said the grant is a sign that the federal government is beginning to put more emphasis on conflict reduction.