Fencing for Wildlife

Landscape connectivity is critical for wildlife passage—and survival. Yet the landscape of the American West is a patchwork of private and public lands that are rife with human created obstacles that prevent migrating animals from finding food and shelter: railroad crossings, high-speed roads with heavy traffic volumes, wide reservoirs and networks of fences. 

Pronghorn looking through fence

The National Wildlife Federation’s Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific region coordinates projects to modify fences so that wildlife populations are better able to move across the landscape to find resources. Fences can act as barriers to daily or seasonal movement and working with communities to create wildlife-friendly fences helps increase connectivity.

Our approach is a collaborative effort that engages state and federal resource agencies, landowners, community groups, and other NGOs. Wildlife tracking data helps us determine where to focus our efforts, and outreach and education in local communities helps us build support for on-the-ground projects. Our focus areas currently include the High Divide region of southwest Montana and northeast Idaho and the vast sagebrush and prairie steppe of northeastern Montana.

The High Divide is an important wildlife connectivity area between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Crown of the Continent, and the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness complex. Large populations of big game and other wildlife traverse the patchwork of land ownership in the High Divide during migrations, and private lands provide important winter range.

elk herd in fenced field

The northern Great Plains host one of the longest-recorded ungulate migrations in the contiguous U.S., where pronghorn travel over 200 miles from Montana to Alberta and Saskatchewan.  In both of our current focus regions we work with ranchers and other landowners to come up with solutions that help both wildlife and people, so that working lands are maintained as open spaces and wildlife can move to their preferred summer or winter ranges.

Above photos by Simon Buzzard.

For more information about the National Wildlife Federation's fencing for wildlife program in Southwest Montana & northeastern Idaho, please contact Simon Buzzard at buzzards@nwf.org.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. The National Wildlife Federation is on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 53 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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