Congress Funds Another Year of Nonlethal Conflict Prevention

Credit: Photo: Vincent M.A. Janssen from Pexels

After a long and tumultuous negotiation process, the new federal spending bill was signed into law, which will keep the government running throughout Fiscal Year 2021. With this comes good news for native carnivores, like grizzly bears and wolves, and for the people who live alongside them: for the second year in a row, the legislation contains a $1.38 million dollar appropriation for the federal agency Wildlife Services to implement nonlethal strategies that reduce conflicts between livestock and native carnivores.

Congress first appropriated this funding for Fiscal Year 2020, which led to the development of new nonlethal Wildlife Services positions, projects and educational events across the country. Participating states include Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. The research branch of Wildlife Services—the National Wildlife Research Center—also received a portion of the appropriated funds in 2020 to research the efficacy of nonlethal tools and test new nonlethal innovations.

Nonlethal strategies include the use of temporary and permanent electric fencing, scare devices, carcass removal programs, livestock protection animals, and range riders who patrol livestock herds to deter predation. These nonlethal tools are valuable because they offer an opportunity for proactive and preventative efforts to keep livestock from getting injured or killed. Tools like range riding and livestock guardian dogs represent a return to a more active and traditional way of raising livestock, while technology—such as specialized electric fencing and GPS collars for livestock—provides new resources for living alongside carnivores as they recover across the west.

Range riders often work by horseback to manage livestock behavior and reduce livestock-carnivore interactions on landscapes where few other conflict prevention tools are available.

Credit: Photo: Lisa Johnson

NRDC has worked to support ranchers who are interested in adopting nonlethal tools into their suite of management practices. What began as a tentative collaboration with Wildlife Services to achieve a scattering of conflict prevention projects in Montana has grown into a partnership focused on breaking down common barriers that can stand in the way of communities and ecosystems thriving together. Wildlife Services and its rapidly growing list of partners—including NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife—are demonstrating that federal investments in nonlethal strategies can protect rural livelihoods and keep bears, wolves, and other wildlife out of harm’s way. With the recent news confirming a 2021 nonlethal appropriation, we are committed to building on the experiences of 2020 and ensuring these funds yield additional real-world benefits in the year ahead.

NRDC Wildlife Advocate (blog author) works to build a multi-strand electric fence to deter bear and wolf activity on a Montana calving pasture.

Credit: Photo: NRDC
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