WORKING WILD

Photo by Melanie Elzinga

OUR GOAL

Thriving ranches and thriving wildlife.

Working lands stitch together the patchwork of landscapes that create the character of the West and the open space valued by so many, both people and wildlife. The Working WildChallenge is a landowner-led effort that recognizes the challenge of ranching with wildlife, and facilitates constructive dialogue between wildlife managers and working lands stewards to solve problems through peer learning, public policies, and increasing access to technical and financial assistance. Our approach leads to stronger partnerships, more resilient ranches, and ultimately, better-connected landscapes. 

OUR APPROACH

Understanding. Connection. Solutions.

Seeking Understanding

Between private stewards, public lands and wildlife managers, conservation organizations, and the public. Holding space on the landscape requires holding space for difficult conversations.

Connecting Practitioners

Through ranch tours, listening sessions, practitioner calls, stakeholder gatherings, virtual meetings, and publications, we connect with each other to promote peer-to-peer information exchange.

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Creating economic and policy solutions

As primary stakeholders with deep personal and financial ties to the land, we ensure that landowners have a direct voice in the policy matters that impact us.

Photo by Melanie Elzinga

Stories from the Working Wild

Herding to reduce depredation

Hilary and Andrew Anderson manage cattle and range using a combination of progressive range management practices, electric fencing, low-stress range riding and herding in southeast Montana. By the mid-2000s, they…

Springing from farm to wild and back again

This May marks my 5th anniversary of walking first irrigation water down this land. Today is the first year I’ve truly heard the spring call of a pair of sandhill…

A winter on the road in the working wild

Following Easter weekend, a traditional marker of the onset of spring (despite an Easter high of 27 degrees), I find myself with a moment of quiet, due to our current…

USDA Wildlife Services to Use $1.38M to Implement and Study Nonlethal Predation Management

Congress appropriated $1.38M to Wildlife Services FY20 budget to support the program’s nonlethal predator damage management activities. WS will distribute the appropriation to 12 states, chosen based on existing and potential conflict between large-carnivore predators and livestock.

Greg Hertel and his airedale terriers

Greg Hertel has used Airedale terriers for several years to protect himself, family and staff from grizzly bears by keeping them away from livestock and buildings around their Cody, Wyoming ranch. The Airedales sound a particular bark when they smell or see a grizzly bear, and are let out of their kennel to run the bears off the ranch.

Wyoming’s budget session generates new opportunities for the working wild

Wyoming’s 2020 Legislative Budget Session ended on March 12. There was legislation that passed this session, which provided a couple of new opportunities for livestock producers who are being impacted by issues related to wildlife.

Working Wild Challenge connects ranchers remotely

Human society may be slowing down at the moment, but in the working wild where people, wildlife and livestock share a common landscape, life is in full swing. The Working Wild Challenge kicked off its practitioners call this week, bringing ranchers together from communities across the West. The call, which will continue on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 7am MT, is a place where ranchers can share their experiences trying to ranch alongside grizzly bears, wolves and elk.

My role on Montana’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council

The 18-member Grizzly Bear Conservation and Management Advisory Council of Montana citizens has a big job between now and its August 2020 deadline. With four the eight scheduled council meetings have now taken place, this a good time to share my impressions of the work so far, and the important tasks that lie before us.

Waterton Biosphere Reserve’s Carnivores and Communities Program

The Waterton Biosphere Reserve’s (WBR’s) Carnivores and Communities program operates in four municipalities, two of which are within the boundaries of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve in Canada. The program focuses on proactive management to decrease conflict between people and carnivores, especially bears and wolves, within the agricultural community of Southwestern Alberta. It is well funded and effective, and it is a major WBR program.

Hunters Helping with Wildlife Management on Private Lands

In its third year, the Master Hunter Program educates and certifies qualified hunters, and provides landowners with a pool of competent, ethical and responsible hunters to draw from when weighing options to manage wildlife populations on their land, and considering who to allow on their property to hunt.

Working Wild Challenge connects ranchers remotely

Human society may be slowing down at the moment, but in the working wild where people, wildlife and livestock share a common landscape, life is in full swing. The Working Wild Challenge kicked off its practitioners call this week, bringing ranchers together from communities across the West. The call, which will continue on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 7am MT, is a place where ranchers can share their experiences trying to ranch alongside grizzly bears, wolves and elk.

My role on Montana’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council

The 18-member Grizzly Bear Conservation and Management Advisory Council of Montana citizens has a big job between now and its August 2020 deadline. With four the eight scheduled council meetings have now taken place, this a good time to share my impressions of the work so far, and the important tasks that lie before us.

Waterton Biosphere Reserve’s Carnivores and Communities Program

The Waterton Biosphere Reserve’s (WBR’s) Carnivores and Communities program operates in four municipalities, two of which are within the boundaries of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve in Canada. The program focuses on proactive management to decrease conflict between people and carnivores, especially bears and wolves, within the agricultural community of Southwestern Alberta. It is well funded and effective, and it is a major WBR program.

Wildlife News from the West

Washington kills member of wolf pack preying on cattle

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed one of the three members of an endangered wolf pack in the northeastern corner of the state in an attempt to reduce the pack’s attacks on cattle. The adult, non-breeding female member of the so-called Wedge wolf pack that has repeatedly preyed on cattle on public and private grazing lands in northeastern Stevens County was killed Monday.

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In western Colorado, wary ranchers eye wolves’ arrival and fear urban voters will introduce more

Ballot measure to widen wolves’ comeback could threaten partnership between conservation community and agriculture. Colorado’s statewide wolf-reintroduction ballot initiative is rankling rural communities, rekindling old conflicts over the purpose of public lands. It’s straining the hard-won partnership that ensures, if not pure nature, the conservation of open landscapes in the face of Colorado’s population growth and development boom.

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Rare leopard frog found beyond its known range in Southwest

A rare frog has been found beyond its known range in the Southwest. A U.S. Forest Service volunteer recently photographed a Chiricahua leopard frog in an earthen stock tank near the town of Camp Verde in central Arizona. Biologists later confirmed that at least 10 of the frogs were living there. The aquatic frogs were thought to be only in eastern Arizona, western New Mexico and northern Mexico but historically were more widespread.

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Sharing the costs of conservation by recognizing ranchers for the habitat they provide

The author of “Eager,” a book about beavers, suggests ranchers should be rewarded for wolves appearing on their property. Ben Goldfarb points to similar programs in Sweden, Arizona and Montana.

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California’s only gray wolf pack has 8 new pups

California’s only known gray wolf pack has eight new pups. Eight youngsters were tallied in the Lassen Pack in northeastern California, according to an April-through-June report from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. Genetic testing of their excrement shows at least four are male and two are female, according to the agency.

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Service Completes Initial Review of Petition to List Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its initial review of a petition to list the dunes sagebrush lizard under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Service has concluded that the petition presents substantial information indicating listing may be warranted. Accordingly, the Service will now begin an in-depth review of this species to determine whether it should be listed under the ESA. 

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Groups petition for southeast Alaska wolf protections

Conservation groups asked the federal government Wednesday to provide Endangered Species Act protections to a southeast Alaska wolf population they say is under threat from factors including the loss of habitat and hunting and trapping.

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Conservation credit system allows Nevada ranchers to aid sage-grouse conservation

With greater sage-grouse numbers continuing to decline throughout their range in the western United States, one state is engaging ranchers to preserve habitat for the bird, known for its elaborate mating rituals.

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Search finds zero wolves in South Cascades

A two-year search for wolves in Washington’s South Cascades has found none, a scientist said Wednesday. Researchers tested the DNA of thousands of scat piles sniffed out by dogs. Many piles looked like wolf droppings, but all turned out to be from dogs. “If wolves are in the South Cascades, they are lone wolves.”

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Agencies, group take ‘step forward’ with Mexican owl talks

Negotiations among environmentalists and state and federal officials in Arizona and New Mexico have resulted in a set of recommendations and other provisions that environmentalists say will help protect the threatened Mexican spotted owl while allowing forest thinning projects to move forward.

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Ninth Circuit rules to restore protections for Yellowstone grizzlies

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday affirmed a 2018 Montana District Court decision that struck down federal efforts to remove Yellowstone grizzlies’ “threatened” status under the Endangered Species Act. The delisting in 2017 turned over management of the species to the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park, allowing the states to plan bear hunts.

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Landowner and agency attempts to reduce conflict were unsuccessful in food-conditioned grizzly bear

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured and euthanized a subadult male grizzly bear about five miles west of Shelby on June 19. The bear had been involved in multiple conflicts between Ethridge and Ledger this spring, and attempts to prevent incidents were unsuccessful. In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the decision was made not to relocate the bear because its undesirable behavior appeared engrained and posed a human safety risk.

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Nevada groundwater order could help save endangered fish

Conservationists say Nevada’s unprecedented interpretation of state water laws to restrict groundwater pumping for development in the desert northeast of Las Vegas could help prevent the extinction of a tiny endangered fish. The order that the state engineer issued this week in a decades-old legal battle is expected to curtail development across 1,500 square miles that share the same groundwater supply in the driest state in the nation.

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Washington state approves killing of 2 wolves that prey on cattle

The state of Washington on Friday authorized the killing of two wolves in the Togo pack in Ferry County because of repeated depredations of cattle grazing in the Kettle River Range. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife said the pack has been involved in seven cattle depredations in the past 10 months.

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Judge upholds lethal removal of cattle-killing grizzlies

A federal judge has upheld U.S. Forest Service grazing plans that allow the lethal removal of grizzly bears that are caught killing cattle in the Bridger-Teton National Forest of Wyoming.

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Mexican wolf plans spur strong opinions, debate

Many people care about the future management of Mexican wolves, judging by the 40,000-plus public comments submitted during a Fish and Wildlife Service review period that expires tonight. The public outpouring put the issue atop the federal government’s “what’s trending” list of regulatory actions today and underscored the tricky choices ahead as FWS reviews the “nonessential experimental population” and management of the wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.

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Range rider working to protect grizzlies, livestock in Gravellys

Following calls from landowners for additional conflict prevention capacity at the 100+ person meeting convened by WLA near the Gravelly Range in Montana in November, an additional range rider has hit the ground in the region. The new range rider is working to prevent grizzly bears from preying upon livestock in response to increasing bear activity. “We’re trying to protect livestock, and we’re trying to keep bears out of trouble,” said John Steuber, Montana state director for U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

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Study reveals impacts of climate change on migrating mule deer

When drought reshuffles the green-up of habitats that mule deer migrate across, it dramatically shortens the annual foraging bonanza they rely on. That is the main finding of a new University of Wyoming study, which shows the benefits of migration are likely to decrease for mule deer and other migratory herbivores as drought becomes more common due to ongoing climate change.

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Researchers take aim at the “Murder Hornet’, threat to bees

USDA staff at the Agricultural Research Service are searching for the Asian giant hornet (AGH) in hopes of preventing a serious threat to the U.S. beekeeping industry. “If AGH were to become established in Washington State, it could pose a serious threat to the beekeeping industry. AGH could subsequently impact the state’s billion-dollar agriculture industry.”

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U.S. delays repairs for Idaho road in grizzly bear habitat

U.S. officials will delay the repair of an impassable northern Idaho road in important grizzly bear habitat near the Canadian border because of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

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Rule change would cause more migratory bird deaths — FWS

The Trump administration’s proposed narrowing of Migratory Bird Treaty Act protections will have a “likely negative” impact on birds that includes “increased” mortality, according to a Fish and Wildlife Service study made public today.

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From beetles to butterflies, Scientists and landowners are working together to bring endangered insects back from the brink

Stories of an “insect apocalypse” came to a head in 2018 as scientists sent out the alarm on the dramatic loss of populations around the world. But there’s another less-told but equally important story of bringing uncharismatic minifauna back from the brink through cooperation among sometimes-opposing groups: private landowners, public officials and conservation activists.

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Hunting for game wardens: A shortage of conservation officers threatens wildlife

States are facing significant shortages of conservation officers, who help protect natural resources and wildlife. The COVID-19 global health pandemic has triggered major budget cuts, further threatening funding for environmental conservation and could result in additional cuts to conservation districts that are already cash-strapped and understaffed.

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Groups sue over continued grazing in Wyoming grizzly habitat

A coalition of conservation groups sued the U.S. government Tuesday over livestock grazing in a Wyoming forest, saying grizzly bears are too often killed by ranchers and wildlife managers for pursuing cattle in such settings. Forest officials decided in October to allow livestock grazing to continue across more than 260 square miles (690 square kilometers) in the Green River headwaters of Bridger-Teton National Forest.

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Migratory birds are struggling to adapt to climate change

Migratory birds may be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change compared with birds that stay put during the winter, scientists reported May 26 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers found that residential birds in North America have expanded their ranges into warming northerly areas since the 1970s, while the breeding grounds occupied by migratory birds have shrunk.

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Rough start to the year for Mexican gray wolves, cattle

One Mexican gray wolf died after being caught in a trap in April and another was found dead in the wild, bringing the total to more than a dozen that died in the first four months of the year in New Mexico and Arizona. Environmentalists say a combination of lethal management by U.S. wildlife officials and private trapping is making it difficult to recover the species. But ranchers say they face constant pressure from the wolves, pointing to the more than two dozen cattle that were killed just last month.

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Prioritizing pollinators: Farmers are partnering to protect the environment

For farmers and ranchers, prioritizing sustainability extends far beyond their own land. That’s how a unique initiative called Farmers for Monarchs was born. The collaborative involves farmers, ranchers, landowners, researchers, academic institutions, government agencies, conservationists and businesses, all working together to sustain monarch butterfly populations on farms and ranches across the country.

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Pollution: Birds ‘ingesting hundreds of bits of plastic a day’

Birds living on river banks are ingesting plastic at the rate of hundreds of tiny fragments a day, according to a new study. Scientists say this is the first clear evidence that plastic pollutants in rivers are finding their way into wildlife and moving up the food chain.

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EPA report: Dams play large role in raising water temperatures

The EPA issued a report Tuesday detailing summertime water temperature problems on the lower Snake and Columbia rivers and assigning significant responsibility to federal dams. The report said dams on both rivers play a role in raising water temperatures above 68 degrees — the state water quality standards of Washington and Oregon, and the point at which the water becomes harmful to salmon and steelhead. The causes of the increasing water temperatures are known as Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. A draft TMDL is now out for public comment through July 21, 2020.

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Conservation groups ask Washington state to kill fewer wolves

Conservation groups yesterday asked the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to sharply limit the number of endangered wolves that are killed over conflicts with livestock. The state has killed 31 wolves since 2012. The conservation groups want the wildlife commission to amend its rules to require that livestock producers use appropriate nonlethal deterrence methods to prevent conflict between livestock and wolves. The new rules would ensure that the state kills wolves only as a last resort.

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NM Supreme Court asked to weigh in on stream access dispute that no one can agree on

Kendra Chamberlain at New Mexico Political Report unpacks the controversy over New Mexico’s stream access law, and the pending lawsuit between pro-access groups and the state. She writes, “Groups on both sides of the dispute all have different ideas about what’s at issue, and what’s at stake, but all parties are quick to point out the dispute is incredibly complicated. And while there’s no shortage of opinions on the topic, stakeholders on both sides of the fence seem to agree on one thing: it was a 2014 opinion issued by then-Attorney General Gary King that started the whole thing.” 

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Lawsuit aims to stop U.S. from killing coyotes in Idaho

Three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the U.S. government from killing coyotes and other predators in Idaho until environmental studies are carried out. The Western Watersheds Project and two other groups are also asking the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho in the lawsuit filed Thursday to rule that an eastern Idaho facility in Pocatello that manufactures poison to kill predators is operating in violation of environmental laws.

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US, Wyoming urge rejection of ruling that blocked bear hunts

Attorneys for the U.S. government and the state of Wyoming urged an appeals court yesterday to throw out much of a judge’s ruling that blocked the first grizzly bear hunts in the Lower 48 in almost three decades. The case is before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It involves more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park that had their protections stripped away and then restored by a judge in Montana just as hunting was scheduled to begin.

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Appeals court rejects lawsuit against Oregon grazing authorizations

Environmentalists have failed to convince the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that grazing authorizations unlawfully harmed bull trout on seven allotments in Oregon’s Malheur National Forest. The appellate court has rejected allegations from the Oregon Natural Desert Association and Center for Biological Diversity that more than 100 federal grazing decisions — including permit approvals and operating instructions — violated the forest’s management plan over a decade.

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Feds, tribes raise concerns about cuckoo habitat proposal

The Fish and Wildlife Service has rekindled an Endangered Species Act debate with its proposal for a large, multistate critical habitat for the western yellow-billed cuckoo. The Army Corps of Engineers cautions that the proposal could complicate operations of a key California dam. Tribes have worries of their own. Some bird lovers, meanwhile, want more than the proposed 493,665 acres spanning seven Western states.

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Opinion: Public partnerships key to wildlife planning efforts

The lack of recognition of migration corridors — areas through which large numbers of wildlife migrate and thus serve a vital role for long-term survival — in public land management plans is resulting in lost opportunities to conserve wildlife. Fortunately, the BLM acknowledges the need to amend these plans, and its intent to begin a public process creates an opportunity for Coloradoans to be part of a solution to conserve big game habitat.

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Earth’s insect population shrinks 27% in 30 years

The world has lost more than one quarter of its land-dwelling insects in the past 30 years, according to researchers whose big picture study of global bug decline paints a disturbing but more nuanced problem than earlier research. From bees and other pollinators crucial to the world’s food supply to butterflies that beautify places, the bugs are disappearing at a rate of just under 1% a year, with lots of variation from place to place, according to a study in yesterday’s journal Science.

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Conflicts with wolves in Wyoming decrease as population declines toward objectives

Three measures of conflict between livestock and wolves – livestock conflicts with wolves, compensation for depredations caused by wolves and the number of wolves lethally removed in response to conflicts – decreased as the population of wolves in Wyoming stabilized around the management objective.

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Report: Washington’s wolf population grows at least 11 percent in 2019

Washington’s wolf population grew at least 11% between 2018 and 2019, despite the death of 21 wolves from hunting, lethal removal and predation. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists documented a minimum of 108 wolves in 21 packs and 10 breeding pairs in 2019. The state’s annual wolf survey, published Monday, sets a minimum number of wolves and packs in the state and guides management decisions for the year to come.

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Yellowstone’s Wolves 25 years after reintroduction: The effects on ranchers

March marked the 25th anniversary of wolf reintroduction. After a quarter-century, there are factual answers to lingering concerns, questions and fears. This is the third in a series that has so far has addressed questions and concerns regarding the decision to reintroduce wolves, whether managers introduced the “wrong wolf” and what effects wolves have had on Greater Yellowstone’s ecosystem. But how have wolves affected ranchers, hunters and others who share the landscape with these long-absent predators?

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Documentary: Sharing the Range

Check out this short film documenting the challenges of living with large carnivores and how the people of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve are meeting these challenges.

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Guard dog program brings back tradition in Portugal as wolves expand

One of the oldest canine breeds on the Iberian Peninsula, Serra da Estrela dogs have been guarding livestock against attacks by Iberian wolves and stray dogs for centuries. While some shepherds still use dogs, the tradition has died out in many areas. Complemented by other coexistence measures, the program intends to reduce livestock predation through providing shepherds with free guard dog puppies, in turn enabling the recovery of the endangered Iberian wolf.

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California moves toward protecting mountain lions

California took a major step yesterday toward giving mountain lions protection as an endangered species. The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to approve Southern California and Central Coast mountain lions as candidates for California Endangered Species Act designation. That launches a yearlong status review by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which will prepare a peer-reviewed status report. The commission will make a final decision at the end of that period.

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USDA Wildlife Services to use $1.3 M to implement, evaluate nonlethal predation management tools

The USDA Wildlife Services (WS) program has identified 12 states where it will implement nonlethal strategies to reduce or prevent depredation on livestock by wildlife. The fiscal year 2020 budget allocated $1.38 million for nonlethal predator damage management and research to the program that is part of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) agency.

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Listed species grow as protections shrink

The Fish and Wildlife Service today increased the number of species covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, even as the agency prepares to narrow the law’s protections. In the first revision of its kind since 2013, FWS added a net total of 67 bird species to the protected list, which now numbers 1,093.

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Trump admin reopens Mexican wolf study

The Fish and Wildlife Service today reopened a debate over the best way to protect the Mexican wolf. Facing legal pressure, the agency announced plans to revise the “nonessential experimental population” designation and management of the wolves living in Arizona and New Mexico. The plans require drafting an environmental impact statement supplement.

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Scientists disagree on bison impacts to Yellowstone’s Northern Range

A new report claiming that bison are damaging the Northern Range of Yellowstone National Park is drawing criticism from a park wildlife biologist who questions whether the scientists behind it are “looking too narrowly” at the range. The study by Oregon State University researchers contends that bison “have become a barrier to ecosystem recovery in the iconic Lamar Valley.” Bison, they say, have 10 times the impact elk have on the valley’s vegetation.

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Governors Grizzly Bear Advisory Council considers recommendations regarding hunting once delisted

When it comes to grizzly bears in Montana, hunting is more of a sociological and political tool rather than a biological one. “Whether or not there’s a hunting of grizzly bears really is a social and a value-driven issue,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks administrator Ken McDonald. “Biologically, it’s a management tool that’s available to us once bears are delisted. Whether we utilize that tool or not is a bigger question that the public generally needs to weigh in on.”

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Historic agreement to protect monarch butterfly issued by FWS

The candidate conservation agreement with assurances (CCAA) potentially applies to over 26 million acres managed by energy companies and departments of transportation across the United States. Via the agreement, public and private partners can voluntarily adopt conservation measures that are beneficial to the monarch butterfly, which is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

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Cattle conflicts prompt FWS to kill Mexican wolves

The killing of four Mexican gray wolves by U.S. wildlife officials has drawn the ire of environmentalists who say management of the species is undercutting efforts to restore the endangered predators to the American Southwest. The USFWS took the action after nonlethal means failed to get the predators to stop killing cattle. The latest deaths highlight a conflict that has persisted since reintroduction began more than 20 years ago. Over the last year, ranchers have seen a record number of cattle kills as the wolf population has increased.

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Carcass removal available on Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front

In the ongoing effort to reduce conflicts between grizzly bears and livestock producers on the Rocky Mountain Front, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks are continuing a carcass collection and removal service again this spring. Carcasses of dead livestock and other animals are significant attractants for grizzly bears, particularly in the spring as the bears emerge from winter dens. Carcass dispersal or removal helps reduce attractants that might otherwise draw bears into conflict with people or livestock.

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BLM plan eyes 1,000 miles of new fuel breaks in 3 states

A plan to help in the battle against devastating wildfires creates fuel breaks 400 feet wide along 987 miles of roads in southwestern Idaho and southeastern Oregon that will be tied into an existing fuel break system in northern Nevada. The BLM on Friday released a final environmental impact statement for the Tri-State Fuel Breaks Project, opening a 30-day comment period. The agency said creating fuel breaks by clearing vegetation will help firefighters stop wildfires and protect key habitat for sage grouse and other wildlife.

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Fact vs. fiction: The effect wolves have on Yellowstone’s game animals, ecology

This is the second in a series of articles looking at the impact of reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone National Park 25 years ago. In an effort to separate fact from fiction, this article explains what we know and don’t know by allowing federal, state and local wildlife and livestock managers to respond to common questions and concerns regarding wolves.

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Yellowstone’s wolves 25 years after reintroduction: Separating fact from fiction

A group of wolves from Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, arrived at Yellowstone National Park on Jan. 12, 1995. The wolves were penned and given time to acclimate to the environment before the first of them were released on March 21, 1995. The purpose of this article, and others to follow, is to examine the reasons, controversies and ramifications of reintroduction. They will separate fact from fiction and reality from fable by allowing federal, state and local managers to respond to persistent claims and concerns.

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Fight over jaguar habitat in Southwest heads back to court

A federal appeals court is ordering a U.S. district judge in New Mexico to reconsider a case involving a fight over critical habitat for the endangered jaguar in the American Southwest. Groups had sued arguing that a 2014 decision by the USFWS to set aside thousands of acres for the cats was arbitrary and violated the statute that guides wildlife managers in determining whether certain areas are essential for the conservation of a species.

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Safe Passages

As the climate changesaltering where animals graze and find suitable habitats, migration corridors are more important than ever to their survival. In this Washington Post feature story, Ben Guarino and team dig in deep on this vital issue.

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Judge asked to force decision on wolverine protections

Wildlife advocates yesterday asked a U.S. judge to force the government into deciding whether the snow-loving wolverine should be federally protected as the rare predator becomes vulnerable to a warming planet. The request comes in a lawsuit filed in Montana almost four years after U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ordered wildlife officials to take swift action to protect the animal.

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Idaho board gets $400K to kill problem wolves

Legislation sending just under $400,000 to a state board to use to kill problem wolves in Idaho headed to the governor’s desk yesterday. The state Senate voted 26-4 to approve the budget bill that taps money in the state’s general fund to kill wolves that prey on livestock or wildlife.

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Stanford researchers uncover benefits of diversified farms for protecting wildlife

The researchers found that farms with diverse crops planted together provide more secure, stable habitats for wildlife and are more resilient to climate change than the single-crop standard that dominates today’s agriculture industry.

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Court rejects critical habitat for jaguar

A federal appeals court yesterday rejected the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. Reversing a trial judge’s 2017 opinion that had been hailed by environmentalists, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded the federal agency was “arbitrary and capricious” in its decisionmaking.

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U.S. Department of the Interior approves paintballs to haze grizzly bears

According to a Facebook post from Montana FWP Prairie Bear Monitor, people may now legally shoot grizzly bears with paintballs if they come too close to homes or other possible areas of threat, such as barns, grain bins or schools. 

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Study looks at realities of increasing Yellowstone fees to pay for wildlife conservation

Longtime Wyoming researcher Arthur Middleton wondered what that could look like in practicality. So he assembled a team of economists, lawyers and biologists to run the numbers and probabilities of what would be the impact of either raising park fees for conservation efforts outside of park boundaries, or levying some form of tax to help pay for those efforts. What they found could be a basis for a statewide, or regional, conversation for conserving those wildlife that call Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the surrounding three states home.

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Legislation introduced in US House to require delisting of gray wolves

Legislation proposed Friday by Natural Resources Committee ranking member Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would require Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to remove gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protection.

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BLM may be forced to repay $125M in latest legal setback

A federal judge’s order nixing yet another attempt by the Trump administration to revise greater sage grouse protections may prove to be a costly bureaucratic mess. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush yesterday threw out rule changes adopted by the BLM in 2018 that shortened public comment times and administrative protest periods involving oil and gas lease sale parcels that overlap sage grouse habitat. Bush’s order requires BLM to conduct a “notice-and-comment rulemaking” to adopt these changes and comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws.

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Support for wildlife overpasses bridges the rural-urban divide in Nevada

In Nevada, as in much of the American West, roads and other development have cut through or encroached on migration routes that wildlife has used for centuries. That has led to an increase in costly—and often deadly—animal-vehicle collisions, and a recognition of the need for solutions, such as overpasses and underpasses for wildlife to use to cross roads.

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Arizona bill would shield info on endangered species on private land

Biologists looking for endangered species on private property would be required to keep much of what they find secret under a proposal poised for quick approval by the Arizona Legislature. Opposition has unsuccessfully argued that if the new policy becomes law it will hinder public monitoring of recovery plans for endangered plants and animals. Supporters say the shield is needed to protect private property rights.

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Size of the herd still up for debate

There are those who contend Yellowstone’s northern bison herd, numbering 4,000 and approximately 10 times larger than historical size, is leaving a damaging impact on the land. There are those who would argue the shifting landscape is more a part of the natural process that includes a very large herd of ungulates, like the bison and elk. One thing that all agree on is that Yellowstone National Park, and its surrounding ecosystems, are a treasure to be preserved for future generations to enjoy. How to best accomplish that is still up for debate.

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Western yellow-billed cuckoo clocks in renewed habitat debate

The Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing a noticeably shrunken but still sprawling critical habitat for the threatened western yellow-billed cuckoo. In a long-awaited revision today, the federal agency proposed designating approximately 493,665 acres across seven Western states as critical habitat. The move would extend ESA protections to parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Texas and Utah.

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Public Meetings: New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Action Plan

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) in partnership with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) has begun developing the Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Plan) in accordance with New Mexico Senate Bill 228, the Wildlife Corridors Act (Act). Public meetings will be held from February 25 to March 18, 2020 throughout the state.

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Colorado’s western slope prepping for wolves

This well-reported article from Elizabeth Stewart-Savery covers all the angles of the wolf reintroduction controversy in the state. A comprehensive and nuanced introduction to this important issue at a time of outsized rhetoric.

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Groups want cows corralled to protect endangered jumping mouse habitat

In a lawsuit filed Thursday, environmental groups have accused the U.S. Forest Service of failing to keep livestock and wild horses out of streams and other wetlands on forest land in southeastern Arizona, resulting in damage to habitat required by the New Mexico jumping mouse, an endangered species found only in the Southwest.

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Idaho extends wolf hunting and trapping seasons

On February 20, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission adopted nine proposed modifications to wolf hunting and trapping for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, extending wolf hunting opportunity, opening more areas to wolf trapping and extending trapping seasons.

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Pronghorn worries prompt lawsuit over Wyoming gas field plan

Environmental groups are suing over plans for a potentially huge Wyoming gas field they say would endanger pronghorn in Grand Teton National Park by hindering a migration route between the park and a basin.

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Study upends management strategy for sage-grouse

A new study published in the Journal of Wildlife Management suggests managers may need to overhaul guidelines meant to protect greater sage-grouse by focusing less on factors like grass height and vegetation cover and more on broad impacts to the landscape.

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Montana compensation fund dwindles as livestock losses to predators increase

A Wyoming rancher was awarded nearly $340,000 last month after disputing wildlife managers’ initial offer to pay for several livestock killed by grizzlies and wolves. While the large payout is unusual, Montana ranchers say it’s calling attention to funding issues for livestock losses on their side of the border.

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BLM seeks comments on sage-grouse management plans

The BLM will publish six draft supplemental environmental impact statements (SEISs) on Friday for management of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat on public lands in seven Western states, highlighting the collaborative process undergone in 2019 to develop plans that reflected the needs of western communities and Greater Sage-grouse habitat. Public comments will be accepted through April 6, 2020.

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Elk test positive for brucellosis outside of Montana’s disease surveillance area

State officials say brucellosis has been found in elk in southwestern Montana’s Ruby Mountains, the latest evidence that the disease continues to slowly spread among wildlife in the Yellowstone region. Two elk tested positive for exposure to the disease during recent sampling by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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Washington rancher provides a clear, though sleepy-eyed, view of ranching with wolves

After losing a calf to a confirmed wolf attack earlier this month, Anatone rancher Jay Holzmiller is doing all he can to prevent another such incident — and he wants to see a more proactive approach from state officials.

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Interior announces grants to 11 western states for big game winter range and migration corridor scientific research

Today, the Department of the Interior announced another round of $3.2 million in grant funding for 11 western states, bringing the Department’s and other stakeholders’ support of big game species habitat conservation and scientific research for migration corridors and winter ranges to more than $22 million. These grants are a part of the Department’s ongoing efforts to execute on Secretary’s Order 3362.

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Utah legislation proposes predator hunting to achieve deer and elk objectives

Utah House Bill 125, which expands the use of hunting predators to manage ungulate herds such as elk and deer, is one of the predator wildlife management bills moving through this year’s legislative agenda.

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Jaguars, snakes derail Arizona copper mine

A federal judge yesterday ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service must redo an endangered species analysis that allowed other agencies to approve the Rosemont Copper project in the Coronado National Forest. The site lies within the range of America’s only jaguars, northern Mexican gartersnakes and other endangered species in the Santa Rita Mountains outside Tucson.

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New wildlife crossings in the West designed to save animals’ lives

More wildlife overpasses and underpasses are coming to highways in the western United States, thanks to a better understanding of migration corridors boosted by GPS collar technology.

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Grizzly captures, kills, down substantially in Wyoming

Wildlife managers relocated or killed substantially fewer grizzly bears in northwestern Wyoming in 2019 compared to 2018. Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials say abundant natural food such as berries helped keep bears away from livestock and other non-natural sources of food.

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Panel abandons griz depredation comp model, awards ranch $339K

An arbitration panel ruled January 27th that Wyoming Game and Fish Department should pay a Hot Springs County rancher $339,927 for stock killed by grizzly bears and mountain lions, almost four times the offer that Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulations allowed. 

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USFWS: Trump regulations boost risk for migratory birds

The Trump administration’s controversial narrowing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act will reduce environmental protections that can be expected from industry, the Fish and Wildlife Service predicted today. In proposed new regulations that have immediately prompted heated debate, the federal agency today acknowledged diminished private mitigation as one likely result of limiting the law’s coverage to the intentional killing of migratory birds.

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New Mexico ranchers say hungry elk are damaging property

Some northern New Mexico ranchers are asking state wildlife managers to do something about herds of elk they say are damaging property and eating hay that was stockpiled for cattle over the winter. Members of the Northern New Mexico Stockman’s Association reported the damage earlier this week and notified the agency that they would have to start shooting the elk. State law allows landowners to lethally remove animals that are causing damage on private property.

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Bighorn sheep released on tribal lands in North Dakota

Thirty bighorn sheep are running free on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation as part of a new agreement between the state of North Dakota and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. The bighorns brought from Montana were released Tuesday as part of a plan to reestablish the sheep in the western part of the state.

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House committee votes to overturn Trump ESA revisions

The House Natural Resources Committee voted today to approve a suite of bills along party lines, including legislation that would overturn the Trump administration’s controversial rules revising the Endangered Species Act. The full committee also voted to approve two bills that would advance the establishment of wildlife corridors on federal and Native American lands nationwide.

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Idaho agency wants to spend $408,000 a year to count wolves

Idaho’s top wildlife official on Tuesday requested authorization from state lawmakers to spend $408,000 to count wolves. The expense would become part of the agency’s annual budget to keep a running tally of the number of wolves in the state. Idaho stopped counting wolves in 2015 after it was no longer required to do so by USFWS following the lifting of protections for wolves under the ESA.

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Montana summit to focus on grizzly bear education, resources

State and Federal wildlife managers are offering a first-of-its-kind summit on grizzly bear education in Helena this week. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is bringing together groups across the state involved in human-bear conflict education to make sure they’re using consistent messages. The summit will also compile a catalogue of education offerings and other resources, ranging from grants for electric fencing to bear spray demonstrations.

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Ladder Ranch works to support sage grouse

On the Ladder Ranch, a multi-generation family works to keep their public lands ranching operation afloat while protecting the greater sage grouse.

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Lawsuit planned to stop Idaho-Wyoming natural gas pipeline

Two environmental groups have given notice they intend to file a lawsuit to stop a proposed underground natural gas pipeline from Idaho to Wyoming the groups say will harm protected grizzly bears and other wildlife.

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California’s monarch butterflies critically low for 2nd year

The western monarch butterfly population wintering along California’s coast remains critically low for the second year in a row (29,000 butterflies compared to compared to about 4.5 million in the 1980s). Scientists say the butterflies are at critically low levels in the Western United States due to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route as housing expands into their territory and use of pesticides and herbicides increases.

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Lawmaker proposes wolf-free zones in southern Idaho

Some areas in Idaho would be declared wolf-free zones and other areas where the animals have killed livestock would have increased wolf-killing opportunities under legislation proposed yesterday by state Sen. Bert Brackett. The state Senate Resources and Environment Committee voted to clear the way for a hearing on the measure.

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Groups prepare to sue over grazing in Wyoming grizzly range

Conservationists worried that continued livestock grazing in a Wyoming forest could endanger grizzly bears are preparing to sue the U.S. government. Western Watersheds Project, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Yellowstone to Uintas Connection allege a 2019 decision to allow grazing to continue in a large area of Bridger-Teton National Forest violates the ESA.

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Petition seeks federal protections for Rio Grande fish

Environmentalists are asking federal wildlife managers to use the Endangered Species Act to protect a fish found only in the Rio Grande in Texas and the Pecos River in New Mexico. WildEarth Guardians filed the petition with the Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday, saying it is part of a campaign focused on vulnerable species found in rivers and streams across the West.

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Updated conflict management resource available

People and Carnivores recently completed an update to their large carnivore conflict management resource which includes a list of peer-reviewed research papers, summarized and categorized, from the last 20 years focusing on North America.

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ESA scores a win with Colorado River fish

A humpbacked Colorado River fish that’s been federally protected for more than half a century has escaped from the edge of doom, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced today. In what officials are calling an Endangered Species Act success story, the federal agency is proposing to downlist the humpback chub from endangered to threatened status. The move would retain protections for the fish but also signify its “partial recovery” and ease some regulatory requirements.

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Wyoming executive order includes landowners in corridor designation process

In one of the most significant changes proposed by the new executive order, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers won’t be the only people at the decision-making table when it comes to migration corridors. The governor will also have help from landowners and others on the ground and the state will support the formation of local working groups to help inform the designation of new corridors.

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Wyoming legislation proposes to compensate ranchers for wolf depredation

A new bill introduced in the Wyoming Legislature this week would create a new compensation program for ranchers whose livestock is killed or damaged by gray wolves outside of game hunting zones. the legislation would create a $90,000 fund to compensate ranchers for any losses related to gray wolf attacks, and would be active for two years.

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Why aren’t more wildlife crossings being built?

Although they are a proven benefit to drivers and animals alike, bridges and tunnels across roads aren’t being built fast enough, experts say.

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Trump admin launches review of grizzly bears

The grizzly bear’s future as a protected species will get another gander, as the Fish and Wildlife Service today initiated a full-bore study of the iconic animal. The review will mark the federal agency’s first comprehensive update on the grizzly bear since 2011 and could lead to proposed revisions of its Endangered Species Act status.

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Ahead of vote, wolves may already be living in Colorado

One day after a measure to introduce wolves was placed on this year’s ballot, CPW announced that a wolf pack was spotted, photographed and video recorded by hunters in Colorado back in October.

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Montana pays for predators

The state of Montana has made more payments to ranchers for livestock killed by predators in 2019 than any previous year, paying out more than $247,000.

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Wolves on the ballot in Colorado

It’s official, wolf reintroduction will be decided on Colorado’s 2020 ballot. On Monday, the Colorado Secretary of State’s office announced the campaign had gathered an estimated 139,333 valid signatures — above the 124,632 signatures needed to earn a place the 2020 ballot. If it passes, the measure would require state wildlife managers to reintroduce wolves to Western Colorado by the end of 2023.

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Grizzlies not drawn to elk hunts, study finds

A study by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team shows that late season elk hunts provide food sources in the form of gut piles for resident grizzly bears, but the timing of transient bears moving into the park does not coincide with the hunting season.

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Interior Department to formally define “habitat” in the ESA

The Interior Department is moving to formally define “habitat” in the Endangered Species Act, part of an anticipated second wave of changes to the bedrock conservation law under the Trump administration. According to a notice published Monday, the addition to the ESA is undergoing interagency review.

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Congress funds nonlethal conflict-prevention positions

Article by NRDC staff attorney Zack Strong shows how organizations (USDA-Wildlife Services, NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife), when focused on shared values, can work together to provide agricultural producers valuable tools to prevent damage and losses caused by predators.

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Wyoming governor releases draft executive order on migration corridors

A draft executive order released by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon lays out rules for how the governor will designate wildlife corridors. Rancher Marissa Taylor served on the advisory group that helped shape the EO. She responded positively to the draft order, with particular praise for its acknowledgement of private landowners’ efforts to preserve migration habitats.

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25 years of re-living with wolves in Yellowstone

Park Service Veteran Norm Bishop tried to prepare the Yellowstone region for wolves. Today he reflects on what we’ve learned.

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Delisting gray wolf leads end-of-year legislation blitz

Lawmakers introduced a flurry of bills before leaving the capital for the holidays, including legislation to delist the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. S. 3140 would direct the Interior Department to issue a rule removing the gray wolf from federal protections.

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Canadian conflict prevention efforts important with expanding grizzly bear population

The Waterton Biosphere Reserves efforts to prevent conflict prevention stand as an example for communities facing conflicts with grizzly bears for the first time as the population continues to expand its distribution.

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Emergency-only feeding to reduce conflict

The Bridger-Teton National Forest plans to reduce elk congregating at winter feed grounds and Chronic Wasting Disease by feeding only in emergency situations to reduce damage or commingling with livestock.

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Debate over extended elk hunt proposal

A debate recently heated up in Montana caused by the complexities of tying elk conflict reduction to access to private land.

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WLA hosts meeting to work on solutions to ranching with large carnivores

Grizzly bear and wolf predation is one of the biggest challenges that ranchers face. Potential solutions can benefit livestock producers, conservationists and wildlife agencies. Over 100 people with a stake in grizzly bear management in Montana convened with the Western Landowners Alliance, Ruby Valley Strategic Alliance and Madison Valley Ranchlands Group at the Alder Firehall Nov. 15.

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Groups strike consensus in debates over Wyoming’s migration corridors

A series of recommendations sent to the governor Monday laid out a possible blueprint for how Wyoming could protect and preserve its iconic migration corridors for years to come.

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Western landowners release new guide to reduce conflict

Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) has released a wildlife guide produced by and for landowners and practitioners constructively engaged in one of the greatest conservation challenges of our time—how to share and manage a wild, working landscape that sustains both people and wildlife.

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