© Tim Springer
When wolves began returning to the Northern Rockies more than two decades ago, Defenders pioneered a program to compensate ranchers for livestock lost to the imperiled animals—a crucial foundation for building rancher tolerance for wolves. But with new federal legislation providing funding for such livestock losses, Defenders is changing its focus to conflict prevention.
Congress passed an Omnibus bill last year authorizing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide up to $1 million in livestock compensation funding to Arizona, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Those states are each eligible for up to $140,000 in federal funds, but they must provide a 50 percent match.
Defenders focus has also changed from paying compensation to further promoting coexistence, with field staff working with ranchers and wolf managers to find and use techniques that deter wolves from preying on livestock. Defenders is also sponsoring a number of demonstration projects to test promising nonlethal methods such as range riders, livestock guarding dogs, and portable fencing to secure sheep overnight.
In 23 years, Defenders paid $1.4 million to livestock owners for verified losses to wolves. “Without our program, wolf recovery in the western United States would not have been possible,” says Rodger Schlickeisen, Defenders’ president. “We are pleased that federal legislation authored by Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and financial contributions by Defenders of Wildlife are enabling states with recovering wolf populations to continue this legacy by initiating or expanding their own compensation programs. At the same time, we look forward to building more partnerships with livestock owners, helping them find ways to reduce or avoid losses to wolves.”