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Grizzly Conflict Reduction Grazing Agreement

Conservation groups support ranchers’ innovative approach to reduce conflict with at-risk wildlife


A Montana ranching family developed an inspiring vision to manage a public land grazing permit in alignment with both conservation and agricultural values.

Three conservation organizations are supporting their efforts to purchase a lease on 25,000 acres in the Forest Service’s West Fork Allotment, located in Montana’s Gravelly Range, with the shared goal of enhancing the land’s overall ecological and economic value.

This partnership is helping fund creative practices to support greater biodiversity and a novel approach to make livestock grazing more compatible with area wildlife, including grizzly bears.

An Innovative Approach:

  • Rancher-directed: The ranching family is applying their firsthand observations and lessons learned from the landscape to implement creative new conservation practices, including actively managing their livestock to avoid conflict with grizzly bears along an important habitat corridor outside Yellowstone National Park.
  • Unprecedented collaboration: Three leading nonprofit conservation organizations—National Wildlife Federation (NWF), the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC), and the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC)—are joining together to support the ranchers’ vision for conservation-minded livestock management on wild landscapes.
  • This market-based approach recognizes the economic and ecological value of livestock ranching on public lands and aims to support other ranches in the creative adaption of grazing practices. If successful, it could open up new opportunities across the West.


A growing conflict

As grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem recover and populations grow, conflicts with livestock increase. The West Fork of the Madison River in the Gravelly Range, where the project is based, is home to some of the highest concentrations of grizzly bear and livestock conflict in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Range riders keep a watchful eye over the cattle.

Grizzly-livestock conflict puts pressure on everyone:

  • Grizzly bears are often relocated or lethally removed, hindering their recovery.
  • Ranchers can face dire financial losses from livestock lost to wildlife predation.
  • The U.S. Forest Service may close grazing or limit recreation in areas with significant grizzly conflict, reducing economic opportunity for ranchers, outfitters, and the greater public who access these lands.

Resilient Ranching

The ranching family’s actions are informed by their experience living with the land. After observing elk avoiding grizzly predation by clustering together in large numbers and keeping on the move, the ranchers are mimicking this approach to reduce livestock conflicts with grizzly bears:

  • More cattle for shorter periods: The ranchers nearly double the number of cattle on the family’s allotment while reducing grazing time by half—running cattle for just two months instead of four. This also reduces the risk of cattle mortality due to tall blue larkspur, a toxic perennial that can cause significant livestock losses, by allowing grazing to occur when the plant is no longer blooming. With fewer larkspur deaths, there are fewer cattle carcasses, which can serve as an attractant to bears.
  • Increased movement: Cows rotate to new pastures within the allotment more frequently—as often as once per week during the grazing season—to further reduce the likelihood of conflict. The increased movement is also expected to improve soil conditions, water quality, and biodiversity.
  • Hands-on, eyes open: Range riders supervise the cattle at all times, monitoring the livestock and directing them away from potential grizzly encounters.
The rancher moves cattle more frequently to mitigate potential conflict.
A Strong Start

In the first season under the new agreement, there was only one confirmed incident of grizzly-livestock predation in the West Fork allotment—a loss rate of less than one-quarter of a percent. The previous permit-holder, operating with traditional grazing practices, sold the permit following 19 confirmed cases within a single year (2021). Though more data is needed, the encouraging 2022 season allowed the ranchers to lay the foundation to ask more questions and adapt their practices in even more meaningful ways.

Evaluating the impact

The partners will closely monitor the project and study its effectiveness with an aim to share successful outcomes with others. In addition to trail cameras monitoring wildlife activity, researchers are collecting soil and water samples, monitoring biodiversity, and evaluating the impact on the overall health and ecology of the landscape as part of broader efforts to support working ranches on resilient lands.

From conflict to cooperation

The Grizzly Conflict Reduction Grazing Agreement is a private, voluntary market-based approach to conservation on public grazing lands. By empowering ranchers to attract support from conservation partners, the project establishes positive economic and environmental outcomes.

project partners

The Greater Yellowstone Coalition is a conservation nonprofit dedicated to working with all people to protect the lands, waters, and wildlife of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
National Wildlife Federation is the United States’ largest, private nonprofit conservation and advocacy organization.

The J Bar L Ranch, managed by the Anderson Family, is focused on conserving and regenerating wild working landscapes while building financial resilience in the ranch businesses.
Closeup of a bear in winter.

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