From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 21 - August 19, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

The Money Trail

Series by Cat Urbigkit

There is a great deal of national interest and money flowing into western Wyoming and Rocky Mountain area environmental organizations in the last few years. National and international groups are making their presence known, as well as their priorities, sometimes teaming up with folks from the local and regional levels, other times simply flowing a river of money into their area of interest. Many of the organizations have connections in that they are involved in the Yellowstone to Yukon Initiative, and the groups involved range from EarthFirst! to the Sonoran Institute. The Examiner has decided that it's time to take a look at some of these organizations and what they're up to. Join us as we travel on a journey of discovery on the money trail.

Part 1: Hometown Alta: Arthur B. Schultz Foundation

The small town of Alta, Wyoming is home to a major grant-making foundation that has poured significant amounts of money into organizations buying out public lands grazing allotments in the last few years.

The Arthur B. Schultz Foundation, with assets of $5 million, focuses its charitable giving into three major areas: wildlands conservation, disabled recreation and mobility and international microenterprise and global understanding. The Examiner investigation focused on the wildlands conservation portion of the foundation's giving.

According to the foundation's website, the goal of the wildlands conservation program is the "long-term security of major wildlife populations and natural processes through connectivity of intact ecosystems within the Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) ecoregion. This will be realized through preserving and expanding current core habitats, coupled with protection of the most viable migratory corridor routes between them. Protection of these tenuous corridor routes will utilize a variety of conservation strategies, as these corridors cross a mosaic of public and private lands."

The three core ecosystems of interest to the foundation are those in northwest Wyoming, central Idaho and northwest Montana.

" Our long-term vision is to see indicator species like grizzly bears, wolves and ungulates using protected corridors to move between these core areas," the website stated. "We believe it to be entirely possible to preserve the ecological integrity of the Y2Y ecoregion alongside vibrant human communities and economies."

The foundation likes to fund programs that support habitat preservation and expansion for threatened predators and other wide-ranging indicator species. That has apparently been interpreted to include getting livestock off public lands allotments in the sensitive Yellowstone region.

Buy-outs seem to be the current trend, from anti-grazing groups and hunting organizations to state agencies like the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, there is money flowing that direction. While touted as "willing-seller, willing-buyer" and "win-win" situations, public lands livestock producers will tell those who ask that the government agencies have numerous ways to make willing sellers out of permittees, and that the bottom line is the same in the end: permanent closure of livestock allotments and a smaller domestic agricultural industry is the result.

But the Arthur B. Schultz Foundation reports: "The buyout and retirement of selected public lands grazing allotments that have chronic conflicts between wildlife and livestock creates a win-win strategy that will greatly improve prospects for expansion of conflict-free wildlife habitat. In such situations, livestock producers are willing sellers, and allotment retirement can be beneficial for all parties. Upon making an incentive payment to grazing permittees to waive their grazing privileges back to the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, the managing agency then permanently closes the allotment to avoid future unavoidable wildlife-livestock conflicts. With a willing buyer and seller, the potential controversies associated with closing allotments are almost completely eliminated."

According to the foundation's website, the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep in Farson received $10,000 in 2004 to help pay for the permanent retirement of the Canyon-Badlands grazing allotment of the Targhee National Forest, the last domestic sheep allotment in the entire Teton Mountain Range on the Targhee National Forest.

The foundation notes that the buy-out "will dramatically improve habitat for a wide range of wildlife species, including bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, wolves, moose, black bears, mountain lions and wolverines. Bighorn sheep will directly benefit by the removal of diseases carried by domestic sheep, which have long decimated local bighorn populations." Although there aren't any grizzlies in the area now, according to the foundation, "closure and subsequent natural rehabilitation of the area will substantially increase the amount of habitat available to the great bear."

Anti-grazing group Western Watersheds Project, of Jon Marvel fame, received $10,000 to help the group in its effort to shut livestock off of the Taylor Fork grazing allotments in southwest Montana. The allotments are adjacent to Yellowstone National Park and in the area where brucellosis-infected bison are not allowed to roam near Montana cattle.

But according to the foundation, "Bison in particular are affected by the proximity of livestock, as they are hazed, trapped and slaughtered as they leave the park boundaries and enter Montana due to the unproved threat of disease transmission to domestic cattle."

The foundation justifies the buy-out in this way: "WWP seeks to negotiate buyouts of the grazing permits in the Taylor Fork watershed, as well as the permanent retirement of these allotments, and raise funds to buy out the grazing permits in the watershed. Because of the buyout payments, removing the livestock conflict will have no adverse economic impact on the public land permitees. However, restoring this landscape to its natural state and allowing wild bison and other species to migrate naturally to the area to recolonize it will have enormous positive ecological impacts."

In 2003, the foundation provided $20,000 to assist the National Wildlife Federation in achieving a permanent closure of the 85,000 acre Blackrock-Spread Creek grazing allotment on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, immediately adjacent to Grand Teton National Park.

According to the website, the foundation "is supporting NWF's campaign to provide a private fund to buy out grazing rights on targeted public land allotments such as the Blackrock, while NWF works with federal land management agencies to permanently retire such allotments from grazing."

Another $10,000 went to NWF to help pay for the closure of the Moose Creek grazing allotment on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest, adjacent to Grand Teton National Park. According to the foundation: "As on the Blackrock-Spread Creek allotment, with a willing buyer and seller, the problems associated with closing allotments are almost completely eliminated. This creates a win-win strategy that will greatly improve prospects for expansion of conflict-free wildlife habitat and minimizes the political controversy associated with such expansions."

Migrating the Y2Y

In other donations in 2004, the foundation provided $15,000 to the Bozeman-based Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund for its legal defense of the Clinton-era federal roadless rulemaking; $15,00 to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition for "GYC's multi-year campaign to protect the free movement of wildlife through (southwest Montana's) landscape using regulatory measures on public lands and incentives and regulations on private lands;" and $15,000 to American Wildlands (also based in Bozeman) to support the group's efforts "to integrate their Corridors of Life, Living Waters and Safe Passages conservation programs in the High Divide project area of southwest Montana and eastern Idaho. These programs address migration corridors, watershed and fisheries health and highway mitigation."

An $8,000 grant was given to support the Predator Conservation Alliance's Range Riders program, in which riders are hired to stay with livestock in southwest Montana. The range riders are trained in non-lethal methods of predator harassment to keep wolves and other predators away from livestock.

Y2Y expenditures in 2004 included $15,000 to the Idaho Conservation League to seek a new wilderness area designation from Congress and $15,000 to help the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative in Jackson to seek a conservation plan for grizzlies occurring in the Gravelly Range area, located outside the official grizzly bear recovery zone.

The Alberta-based Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative received $5,000 for its Wildlife Network, "the first comprehensive identification of key core and corridor wildlife habitats from Yellowstone to Yukon needed to maintain or restore, as well as transition areas where human activity must be considered."

Teton Regional Land Trust received $5,000 for the group's efforts in protecting the Teton River basin and Henry's Fork River corridors.

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