Ecosystem: Greater Yellowstone (GYE)
Location: ID – Shoshone National Forest
Project Type: Grazing allotment retirement
Summary: Vital Ground provided a grant to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to help retire a sheep allotment. Since 2002, NWF has worked to retire livestock grazing allotments on public lands in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where there are chronic conflicts with wildlife, especially grizzlies and wolves. Vital Ground has contributed to seven of these voluntary allotment buyouts thus far, totaling 400,000 acres.
Vital Ground helped NWF retire the Dunoir grazing allotment, which consists of 49,000 acres on the Shoshone National Forest, just east of Grand Teton National Park in northwestern Wyoming. The backcountry reach of the allotment on the East and West Dunoir Rivers is a popular area with hikers, horsepackers, hunters and anglers-and a stronghold for grizzlies. The lower section of the allotment has roads and modest development.
Over the past 20 years, at least 52 individual grizzlies have been radio-tracked using the area. The upper Dunoir lies completely within the Primary Conservation Area for grizzlies, where the bear is supposed to receive primary management consideration.
The Dunoir also supports a substantial mule deer population and is home range for the Washakie wolf pack. The area is particularly important transitional range for elk in spring and fall, as well as a calving area. In addition, it contains yearlong habitat for moose and winter range for bighorn sheep. Without competition from livestock, food availability for wild ungulates should increase.
Allotment buyout agreements are entirely voluntary. NWF negotiates a price with the permittee based on the amount of forage given up. Livestock growers then typically use the payment to secure other grazing in areas without wildlife conflicts. In the case of the Dunoir, the agreement will retire grazing in the remote upper section (approximately 34,500 acres), but will allow continued livestock use in the more developed lower section adjacent to the permittee’s private land. Allotment retirements have received strong support from livestock producers and offer a practical solution to livestock/wildlife conflicts on public lands.