A Montana Field Guide to Sharing Landscapes with Large Carnivores
In Montana, ranchers and wildlife are increasingly competing for space and resources on the landscape, leading to conflicts that endanger animals, people, and livelihoods. In 2018, Future West initiated a multi-phase project to reduce these conflicts through a field-guide, college curriculum, and intern program that would educate current and future agricultural and environmental professionals on the value, use, and effectiveness of wildlife conflict prevention tools. For Phase I, Future West Staff and an Intern conducted interviews, carried out site visits, and developed case studies on the wisdom and lessons learned by Montana ranchers and the groups and agency staff who support these landowners in order to identify the critical ‘ingredients’ (social, technical, financial) that are necessary for successfully implementing a given conflict prevention measure. This work revealed ways for us to overcome the limitations of previous conflict-prevention efforts and achieve a shared conservation vision. Phase II entailed the writing and publication of a book to synthesize the research, and it will be published by the esteemed, peer-reviewed international publisher: Anthem Press. We are delighted to announce that the book, The Atlas of Conflict Reduction: A Montana Field-Guide to Sharing Ranching Landscapes with Wildlife by Future West staff Hannah F. Jaicks will be available in print and audiobook in winter 2022! We are now in Phase III of the project to ensure these invaluable findings can be taught and applied through our partnerships to ensure strong, sustainable agricultural communities and safe, connected wildlife habitat in Montana.
1) INCREASE KNOWLEDGE
-Provide participating ranchers a supportive platform to inspire broader use of nonlethal tools.
-Identify the types of wildlife conflicts ranchers face and effectiveness of each tool for addressing them.
-Educate fellow ranchers on the use of and rationale for employing nonlethal tools.
2) CHANGE BEHAVIORS
-Change the standard practices of ranchers to a nonlethal conflict-prevention approach.
-Increase social and financial support from conservationists for ranchers using nonlethal tools.
3) IMPROVE CONDITIONS
-Ensure wildlife a safe passage across a connected landscape for reproduction and foraging.
-Afford ranchers a voice and sense of agency on how to sustain their livelihoods.
As we have argued, existing resources provide technical information about nonlethal conflict prevention tools, but they are not sufficiently persuasive to change ranching norms, nor do they address the disconnect between landowners and conservationists. As planned, we have identified the human stories, i.e., the process and context elements, that capture ranchers’ rationales for participating in collaborative efforts to nonlethally address wildlife conflicts. These elements capture not only the obstacles to successfully addressing the coexistence challenges, they go a step further to provide the first nuanced and synthesized understanding of opportunities for overcoming them.
About the Book:
The book is a firsthand account of Dr. Hannah Jaicks’ journey through western Montana’s ranching landscapes to showcase the stories of ranchers and affiliated groups who are pioneering strategies for reducing conflicts with wildlife, while also stewarding the landscape. Americans depend on these people who live by working on the land. Ranchers have the power to shape the future of our lands, waterways, and wildlife communities, but enduring perceptions frame ranching as a unilaterally destructive force to the environment. Perception is slippery ground to base an argument on, however, and reality is far more complicated. Often seen as antithetical to one another, American ranchers and wildlife have long been entangled with another. The book is about producers and partner organizations who are forging new paths in conservation and addressing these seemingly intractable entanglements to sustain working ranch operations alongside healthy wildlife populations. It elevates the voices of these people striving daily to achieve wild and working landscapes in the West and serves as a model for how others can begin to do the same.
The author takes readers on a journey up western Montana to a different valley in each chapter and showcases the place-based stories of everyday conservation heroes who practice regenerative ranching, provide consciously raised agricultural products, advance strategies for collaborative conservation and protect vital habitat for endemic wildlife that would otherwise be developed and subdivided beyond repair. Ethnographic storytelling is interwoven with psychological theories to inform readers about progressive ways to make the world we share – with people and animals – a better place to live. Illustrations by Katie Shepherd Christiansen of wildlife and conflict-reduction tools accompany the text, helping to underscore the vivid realities of shared landscapes and how they are achieved.
There is no doubt the history of ranching is laden with problematic examples, and public and private rangelands are not universally in good condition today. This book aims to capture the increasing recognition that strong ranching practices coincide with good land and wildlife stewardship measures, but ranchers need help. If we want to see more of this remarkable work happening, environmentalists and concerned citizens need to step up and ensure these practices are not only possible but also become the norm. Everyone must be willing to come to the table and navigate discussions about how to work together more effectively and collaboratively. This book is a roadmap for how people can begin to do so.
Generous support from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Cinnabar Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Harder Foundation, the Wilburforce Foundation, the Kendeda Foundation, and private donors have made this project possible.