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Grizzly Bear Conflict Mitigation

Objective: Wild Livelihoods is collaborating with businesses, land-owners and other organizations to implement proven strategies that protect humans, livestock and grizzly bears. In addition, a growing list of over 160+ local businesses seek to protect the significant local economy of guides, lodging, restaurants and retail along the northern edge of Yellowstone Park, by making a case for the socio-economic value of grizzly bears to our area. Recent proposed legislation in Montana is not representative of the $5B+ non-resident annual spending on our tourism industry, but instead protects a minority few. The bill addresses reasonable topics such as conflict with humans and livestock. Its dubious nature resides in two statements: “grizzly bears are a recovered population and thrive” and [we should] “manage grizzly bear populations at levels necessary to maintain delisted status.” Thriving according to whom? Why aren't our local legislators proposing legislation to protect our dominant industry?

Ways We are Promoting Grizzly Bear Safety

  • Bear resistant trash cans to residents and businesses.

  • Cost sharing projects to fund bear safe public trash receptacles and bear safe grease traps for restaurants.

  • Developing an apple tree removal/ replacement program.

  • Regular public safety announcements to educate and remind residents and visitors of bear safe practices.

  • Have public events in Gardiner to accomplish and facilitate the goals above, alongside MTFWP, USFS and NPS.

  • Electric fencing program - chicken coops, Teal Tags, beehives, gardens, orchards, other areas of high-conflict.

  • Teal Tags & Grizzly Systems – "Made in Montana" technology innovation that helps manage conflicts.

  • Build upon experiences to create a model for other communities facing similar bear conflicts as Gardiner.

Politics Opposed to our Livelihoods

We are a coalition of over 160+ local businesses north of Yellowstone National Park whose livelihoods depend upon wild places. We are made up of tax-paying, ethically-minded business owners who share common ground in our belief that keeping the Greater Yellowstone region wild is critical for our livelihoods. We represent the largest economic sector by revenue in Park County.

The tourism industry is the primary industry in our region and the second largest industry in the state. It relies on grizzly bear tourism. We know that opportunities to view wild wolves bring over $83 million to Montana annually. Grizzlies are even more popular among visitors than wolves are. Their value cannot be understated.

While Montana’s proposed Grizzly Bear Management Plan goes to great lengths to consider the economic impacts of grizzlies on agriculture, it should also have equal consideration of the tourism industry’s economic interest in the species. State-wide, cash receipts from livestock run about $1.5 billion annually, while non-resident tourism spending is about $5 billion and creates $1.3 billion in salaries. In southern Park County, tourism income exceeds agriculture by 10 to 1. We have no problem with ranching; in fact many of our business owners come from that heritage or are still in it. We simply ask for an equal seat at the table when it comes to wildlife management. Both industries of full of hard-working Montanans.

As stated in the Grizzly Bear Advisory Council’s final recommendations, the tourism industry as a whole should play a key role in not just decisions surrounding how grizzlies are managed, but also contribute to supplying funding for research and resources to help the state continue to recover grizzly bears.

Along with acknowledgement of the economic benefit of grizzly bears, we believe the state should develop a diverse, balanced, yet science-based management plan. If removed from the ESA, the plan must protect and promote the population viability in perpetuity. To this end, the plan should be improved the following ways:

  1. Study the economic value of grizzlies to the State of Montana through tourism dollars generated, and only then consider their financial liability to other industries of the state (i.e. depredation costs) and make social management decisions accordingly.

  2. Grizzly conservation should be the primary goal in ‘Primary Conservation Areas’ to protect Grizzly recovery and protect Montana’s robust tourism industry in the GYE and NCD. These areas should be excluded or make the lowest priority for sport hunting.

  3. Relevant research and recent data sources should inform management

  4. Population connectivity should be prioritized and based on existing (and future?) research to inform how populations are or could be connected, naturally. Population connectivity should not be reliant on translocation of bears.

  5. Minimization and mitigation of grizzly-human conflict should be a top priority with preventative and non-lethal methods first.

  6. The plan should NOT solely rely on the volunteers on the FWP Commission to formulate the details of grizzly bear management ad hoc.   

  7. Hunting for sport should occur only after FWP has developed clear population objectives that are based on conservative population models to account for fluctuations in habitat, climate, and food availability.

  8. FWP should provide more education to the public and support for ranchers. The department should be leading and coordinating these efforts, rather than supporting different individuals and NGOs to accomplish this goal. 

  9. Montana’s Tribes should be co-managers with the state of all Montana’s wildlife, because bears are of great spiritual and cultural significance to these first nations.

Economic Risk

As visitors to southwestern Montana start to voice their opinion regarding how Montana wants to manage wildlife (including carnivores), they are making it clear as to if they want to spend their money here. ​Here are a few economic highlights with respect to recreational tourism in our area (for more data, see here) and the impact that wild places have on it.

  • One and only year-round driving entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

  • 22% of all labor income fueled by travel, tourism and recreation.

  • Park County alone generates roughly $500,000,000 in tourism revenue annually. To put that in perspective, all of Park County's annual agricultural revenue runs at about $34,000,000 ($24m in livestock and $10m in crops). Based on the 2021 estimated predation losses (of all kinds), less than .075 percent of that revenue was lost to predation.

  • Lodging/accommodation wages and revenue are the largest economic category in our region. Lodging tax revenue for Park County, driven in large part to Yellowstone National Park visitation, in 2021 generated almost $3,400,000 for Montana's general fund, various heritage programs and recreational use programs, including FWP. 

  • Small business proprietors (or self-employment) represents a significant portion of all employment in Park County, accounting for 39% of all jobs in 2014.  This has grown over the last decade from about one-third of all jobs before 2000 and this growth has been entirely among non-farm proprietors.  Statewide in Montana proprietors accounted for 27% of all jobs in 2014, up only slightly from 26% in 2000. 

  • A 2017 survey of non-resident tourists visiting Montana shows the time spent on various activities ranked as:

    • 56% Scenic driving

    • 36% Day hiking

    • 34% Wildlife watching

    • 29% Nature photography

    • 26% Camping

    • 24% Recreational shopping

    • 19% Visiting other historical sites

    • 17% Visiting local brewery

    • 12% Visiting museums

    • 12% Visiting Lewis & Clark sites

    • 9% Fishing / Fly Fishing

  • As the rate of tourism goes up or down, which business/retail categories categories are impacted the most (ranked in descending order according to the State Department of Commerce expenditure categories):

    • Gasoline Outlets (e.g. Town Pump)

    • Restaurant & Bars

    • Hotel & Motel

    • Outfitter & Guides

    • Retail Sales

    • Grocery Stores

    • Auto Rentals

    • Rental Lodging

    • Campground & RV Parks

    • Vehicle Repairs

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