Private landowners in Idaho and Montana can now play a key part in migration through the Big Game Partnership Pilot. Established in 2022, the U.S. Department of Agriculture initiated the pilot program among Wyoming ranchers to benefit both migrating animals and private landowners, according to Boise State Public Radio.
And now it will be extended to landowners in Idaho and Montana thanks to a $40 million investment.
The Big Game Partnership Pilot allows for voluntary conservation of private working lands and migratory big game populations to “provide financial and technical assistance for landowners who want to participate,” according to a news release. Specifically, the partnership includes agricultural land protection; restoration, enhancement and management of lands to provide healthy habitats for migrating animals; and conservation leases to maintain the long-term management of private lands for big game migration.
“[P]rivate land is key to protecting big game migratory routes,” said Lesli Allison, the Chief Executive Officer of the Western Landowners Alliance, a conservation group that works with private landowners. “But these same lands, at the gateway to Yellowstone, face immense development pressure.”
With 10,000 to 20,000 elk roaming Yellowstone National Park, migration routes are essential to herd health and survival.
“When they sell and they go into development, the elk lose, the ranching community loses,” said Allison.
And, according to Allison, landowners are excited to participate.
“There's been an overwhelming demand for easements from landowners and the funding has not kept up with demand in most of the states that we operate,” said Allison.