Defenders of Wildlife, Montana Livestock Loss Board double down on grizzly bear coexistence
State takes over compensation payments, group invests in nonlethal conflict prevention
MISSOULA, Mont. (Sept. 5, 2013) – Thanks to new legislation authorizing the expansion of livestock loss compensation payments; Defenders of Wildlife will be refocusing its efforts on conflict prevention in Montana. Last year, the state legislature adopted a new law (House Bill 323) that allows the Montana Livestock Loss Board to reimburse ranchers for animals killed by grizzly bears, in addition to compensation already paid for losses to wolves. The new state-run program will begin paying claims for livestock losses to grizzly bears this fall, which removes the need for a privately-run program in Montana. As a result, Defenders will end compensation for losses to grizzly bears in Montana and will instead invest its resources in tools that allow people and wildlife to safely coexist, starting with a grant of $25,000 to the livestock loss board for its Grizzly Bear Loss Prevention Grant program.
The following is a statement from Erin Edge, Rockies and Plains associate for Defenders of Wildlife:
“We’re very pleased to see the Montana Livestock Loss Board taking over this vital program. Though not a perfect solution, compensating livestock owners for losses to grizzly bears has helped lessen the financial impact on Montana ranchers and their families and increased tolerance for grizzly bears in the state.
“For more than 15 years, Defenders has been happy to provide funding and administer a private compensation program. But all Montanans will now share in the commitment and responsibility for having grizzly bears back on the landscape. Having the state run the program will ensure that all stakeholders are involved in making smart investments that protect both people and wildlife.
“Making this transition will also allow Defenders to invest even more of our resources into proactive tools that actually prevent conflicts from occurring in the first place. We’re very pleased to be able to contribute $25,000 to bolster Montana’s efforts to reduce conflict using nonlethal deterrents and other methods of securing potential attractants. Bear-resistant garbage bins, food storage lockers and sturdy electric fences are simple solutions that keep bears out of trouble and keep our communities safe. It’s well worth the investment for these tools to be able to better coexist with grizzly bears in Montana and continue our ongoing efforts to restore this iconic species.”
Since 1997, Defenders of Wildlife has spent more than $500,000 on proactive grizzly bear projects like electric fencing, primarily in Montana. In addition, Defenders has paid more than $390,000 to ranchers to compensate for livestock losses to grizzly bears, including nearly $90,000 in 2012 alone. As of August 1, 2013 Defenders has paid more than $20,000 to Montana ranchers through this program. In 2010, Defenders initiated an electric fence incentive program to help landowners protect their property. While Defenders has a history going back to the early 1990’s assisting with electric fence, the incentive program initiated in 2010 has become very popular with residents who have backyard chicken coops, bee hives, fruit orchards, compost piles and other potential bear attractants. From 2010-2012 Defenders completed 58 fences through the program and is on track for 50 more in 2013.
Defenders of Wildlife’s long-standing Grizzly Bear Compensation Trust will end in Montana on September 30. All claims received by that date will be processed. For more information about the transition of this program, please read our Frequently Asked Questions .
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org  and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews .