Defenders of Wildlife Makes Good on Grizzly Compensation Promise

(08/12/1997) - Missoula, MT -- Defenders of Wildlife, a national wildlife organization that has historically been committed to the conservation of large predators, today announced it has paid a total of $1772.92 to three Montana ranchers for livestock that were killed by grizzly bears in May and June 1997. Defenders recently assumed responsibility for compensating livestock owners for grizzly kills.

"Grizzlies don't kill livestock very often, but when they do, it's important for conservationists to step forward and help out those who suffer financially," said Hank Fischer, Defenders' Northern Rockies representative. "It just makes sense. When private landowners are forced to shoulder the economic burden for endangered species programs created to benefit the public-at-large, it can create animosity toward the animal that can lead to illegal killing."

Defenders has been operating a compensation fund for wolf predation since 1987, and has paid over $35,000 to nearly 40 ranchers during that time. In July, the national conservation organization with more than 220,000 members and supporters assumed responsibility for the grizzly compensation program that had previously been administered by the Great Bear Foundation. Defenders' program was expanded to cover the entire area surrounding Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness area, including both the Blackfeet and Flathead Reservations.

According to Fischer, who administers both of Defenders' compensation funds, "Establishing a credible and reliable compensation program can increase landowner tolerance for endangered species and significantly improve prospects for grizzly recovery."

Here's how the program works: If a landowner suspects that a grizzly has killed his livestock, he should cover the remains with a tarp and call either state or federal officials. If these officials verify that a grizzly caused the loss, Defenders then contacts the landowner and works with him to ascertain the fair market value of the livestock. Once the value is agreed upon, Defenders then cuts the landowner a check for that amount. "We do our best to get a check to the livestock producer within two weeks of receiving verification of a loss," said Fischer. If there is any dispute over the value of the livestock, Defenders relies on the judgment of the county extension agent. There is a $2,000 cap on compensation for any single animal.

Defenders' Board of Directors has authorized expenditures of up to $25,000 until a permanent fund is established. The non-profit organization hopes to establish a permanent fund of approximately $50,000 to cover grizzly damage, which averages about $5,000 per year. People interested in supporting this compensation fund through a contribution should write to: Grizzly Fund, Defenders of Wildlife, 1101 Fourteenth St. NW, Suite 1400, Washington, DC 20005.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270