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Brucellosis Compensation Fund

A new tool that helps share the cost of living with wildlife


PERC’s Brucellosis Compensation Fund is an innovative new tool that helps ranchers in Montana’s Paradise Valley whose land serves as vital elk habitat.

Relief for ranchers

The first of its kind in Montana, the fund eases the financial burden ranchers may face if their cattle contract brucellosis from elk in exchange for providing critical habitat for migrating elk.

A conservation coalition

The project brings together a coalition of conservationists, hunters, ranchers, and community members to protect elk migration and open space.

Agile and adaptable

The fund is a flexible, private market solution designed to be simple, straightforward, and effective.


Migratory elk depend on private land

The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s iconic migrating elk herds depend on private land for their survival. Thousands of elk descend on Montana’s Paradise Valley every year to feed on ranch lands, where they can spend as much as 80 percent of their time each winter.

But their presence can bring significant costs and challenges to the landowners who provide wintering grounds, including brucellosis.

Elk migration map for Yellowstone
  • Brucellosis is a reproductive disease transmitted from bison and elk to cattle that can have sudden and devastating financial consequences for ranchers.
  • A positive case requires an expensive and lengthy quarantine process in which ranchers often have to isolate their entire herd, undergo testing protocols that can last a year or more, or sometimes even depopulate their entire herd.
  • This can discourage landowners from providing habitat. As one rancher told us, “If we improve habitat [for elk] we’re basically shooting ourselves in the foot because of the increased brucellosis risk.” The result isn’t good for ranchers or elk.

At a time of rapid regional growth and fragmentation as a result of development, supporting large, working cattle ranches by minimizing the impact of brucellosis is an urgent priority for habitat conservation.

“There is a significant opportunity for conservationists to privately fund and protect open space that migrating elk depend on in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. If these ranches were to be carved up and developed, it would be devastating for elk herds and everyone who loves them.”

– PERC CEO Brian Yablonski


A private fund for conserving elk and open space

Many conservationists, hunters, and community members want to protect the region’s vibrant elk herds. The Paradise Valley Brucellosis Compensation Fund is a privately financed tool that engages them to do just that.

PERC’s researchers developed the model in partnership with conservation partners and the local ranching community with an aim to keep it as straightforward as possible:


The three-year pilot project begins in January 2023


Available to any cattle rancher in Paradise Valley, Montana

Fund size

$100,000 – $150,000 available (currently capitalized at $115,000) to cover 50 to 75 percent of a rancher’s quarantine-related costs following a positive brucellosis test. The partial funding incentivizes ranchers to remain proactive in precautions against the disease.


75 percent of estimated hay costs, with a maximum payout of 50 percent of the initial fund size for any single quarantine event.

If successful, the fund could be expanded into other areas in the future or lay the groundwork for a more formal financial risk-transfer tool to address long-term brucellosis risks.

project partners

Conservation and community partners stepped up to fund the program.

Greater Yellowstone Coalition, a conservation nonprofit dedicated to protecting the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
RMEF logo
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a national big game conservation organization fueled by hunters and sportsmen
Spruance Foundation
Spruance Foundation is a community-based nonprofit that supports various nonprofit organizations and charitable causes
Credova logo
Credova, an outdoor recreation financial technology company based in Bozeman, Montana

By sharing the costs and risks associated with sustaining Yellowstone’s migratory elk herds, we can support wildlife while supporting the livelihoods of ranchers who conserve habitat. The result is good for wildlife, ranchers, conservationists, hunters, and all of us who cherish this incredible ecosystem.

“PERC has become a trusted partner in the ranching community of Paradise Valley. Their innovative conservation solutions will help working lands continue their goal of habitat stewardship to benefit cattle and wildlife.”

Druska Kinke, a third-generation cattle rancher in Paradise Valley and a leader of the Paradise Valley Working Lands group.

Establishing partnerships

For the past several years, PERC has worked with Paradise Valley ranchers to better understand the wildlife challenges they face and develop creative new solutions by applying its research in markets for conservation.

  • In a 2019 PERC survey, ranchers identified brucellosis as the most concerning wildlife issue they face.
  • The survey was published in a 2020 PERC report, “Elk in Paradise,” which provided 13 recommendations for conserving elk habitat and working lands in Paradise Valley, including financial incentives such as a brucellosis risk-transfer tool.
  • Since then, PERC has helped organize the Paradise Valley Working Lands Group, and PERC researchers have worked with landowners and other stakeholders to explore potential solutions that would increase tolerance for wildlife by reducing the impact of brucellosis.
Closeup of a bear in winter.

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