Training Colorado educators about Sustainable Co-existence between ranchers and wolves

Progress report for WPDP21-029

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2021: $99,949.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2023
Host Institution Award ID: G343-21-W8617
Grant Recipient: Colorado State University
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:
dana Hoag
Colorado State University
Co-Investigators:
Dr. Stewart Breck
Colorado State University
Dr. Kevin Crooks
Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State Univers
Dr. Alex Few
Western Landowners Alliance
CJ Mucklow
Colorado State University
Dr. John Sanderson
Colorado State Univesity
Robin Young
Colorado State University
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Project Information

Abstract:

In November, Colorado voters approved the reintroduction of wolves into the state. Restoring wolves advances wolf conservation, but without sustainable agricultural management practices, wolves can threaten the viability of livestock producers and their communities.  Prior statewide surveys confirm that Coloradoans generally support wolf restoration, but ranchers are uneasy about their own sustainability (see Niemiec et al.,2020 in supplemental files).  We propose to train personnel from CSU Extension, public agencies, and NGO’s about profitable sustainable ranching when living with predators.

 

Government-sponsored predator control eliminated wolves from Colorado by the 1940’s, and wolves have been largely absent since. While Colorado producers are experienced with predators such as mountain lions and bears, they have little experience with contemporary and proven sustainable ranching methods for wolves.  A team of researchers and educators at Colorado State University have worked to fill that information void.   Through our newly formed Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence (CHCC), we partnered with CSU Extension and Center for Collaborative Conservation to assemble and distribute science-based information (e.g., information sheets, Q&A, workshops, webinars) leading up to the vote to reintroduce wolves.  Through the Center's efforts were covered in 672 news stories, reaching over 321 million readers.

 

Through our efforts to educate voters, we built a strong literature database and network of expert researchers, educators and practitioners on living with wolves. This proposal would fund a coordinated effort to utilize our substantial capacity to further develop educational tools and programs to be distributed through our established networks and partnerships with seasoned educators in Extension, government agencies and NGO’s that are on the frontline helping livestock producers.  Our Extension Education Team will work with agents and the Western Landowners Alliance to identify information needs, and our research/education team will develop programs and materials that would be distributed in meetings, trainings, and our website.

Project Objectives:
  1. Consolidate, organize and coordinate wolf educational efforts by the Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence (CHCC), Western Landowners Alliance (WLA), Extension Wolf Education Committee, government and NGO educators and producers to develop meaningful research and educational capacity to develop sustainable ranching methods with predators.
  2. Provide Colorado Extension agents and other educators (e.g. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, USDA Wildlife Services, USDA NRCS, Western Landowners Alliance) with steady, continued, contemporary, and relevant training and informational resources (publications, presentations, facts, databases, etc.) to help ensure Colorado’s livestock producers can live sustainably with wolves.

Colorado ranchers have experience with predators like mountain lions and coyotes, but information about sustainable ranching methods to address wolves is limited.  Their “go to” for information, CSU Extension, needs help to address their needs.  Our team will provide educational programming aimed at Extension and other educators that are embedded in communities where ranchers will have to face the growing presence of wolves.  Our CSU team is already heavily involved with wolf research and educational outreach.  This grant would organize a special effort for rancher education, led by Dr. Hoag (PI), in collaboration with the Director of the CHCC (Crooks), CSU Extension (Young), and the Center for Collaborative Conservation (Sanderson). A variety of partners will help develop and disseminate the educational materials. The Western Landowners Alliance (Dr. Few) has an established and extensive network to work regularly with landowners to mitigate conflict with predators across 11 western states. USDA Wildlife Services (Dr. Breck) is the lead federal agency responsible for managing conflict with wolves in the U.S.  Further expertise will be brought by experienced Colorado livestock Extension agents (Mucklow) and in-state and out-of-state producers (Krebs; Blackfoot Challenge).  Finally, our team of researchers at the CHCC have extensive experience and connections with wolf experts around the world.

Timeline:

Principles and Operation:

  • Financial stability is an important determinant of ranch sustainability.
  • Wolves could threaten financial stability for impacted ranchers.
  • Through science-based information and training using proven methods, ranchers can be sustainable, while maintaining a viable wolf population.
  • The project will rely on collaboration between the CHCC and the Extension wolf education team

Resources:

  • Research capacity. The CHCC includes infrastructure, faculty and student volunteers.
  • Education network. The Extension wolf education committee.
  • Ranchers needs. Reports and consultation from the Western Landowners Alliance, which regularly discuss predators with ranchers in 11 western states across 14 million acres.  Their Working Wild Challenge supports landowners and stewards to reduce conflicts between livestock and large carnivores.  Their Conflict Reduction Consortium provide recommendations on management, policy and research needs.
  • Companion funding. We have received a small grant to establish the CHCC and are in final consideration for $200,000 to fund operational expenses for the CHCC for two years.  We will continue to seek more.
  • Extension agents. The time, energy and experience and educational efforts of Extension agents
  • Rancher Counsel. Mr. Krebs manages sheep among predators in Oregon.
  • NGO Counsel. The Blackfoot Challenge has successfully helped ranchers manage in areas with predators in Montana.

Methods

The PI of this project will work with all partners to develop a distinct component of the CHCC that works on Rancher Sustainability.   We will create an individual section of the CHCC website, develop a unique informational series, and training resources.  The PI will work with the CHCC director, and the Chair of the Extension wolf education committee to meet quarterly to coordinate our efforts to match rancher needs with educational programming.  The Extension committee will grow to include  Dr. Few from the Western Landowners Alliance,  Cameron Krebs, our only experienced rancher and  Dr. Breck who links us to the agency responsible for wolf management. The research team will meet monthly to develop a steady stream of educational materials and trainings (see products in next section) that informs Colorado livestock producers about various aspects of sustainable ranching with predators. 

 

Timeline

  • Monthly project meetings
  • Quarterly meetings to plan, implement and track training
  • Ongoing, dedicated website for the distribution of materials in the Predator and People page of the CHCC website
  • An all-state online meeting in year 1, and an all-state in person meeting in year 2
  • Continuous support of Extension agent training preparation and implementation in their home counties

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand/collapse or show everyone's info
  • Cameron Krebs - Producer (Educator)

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Extension Agent Training about wolf management
Objective:

Train agents, and offer resources, to offer educational programming regarding wolf management

Description:

Colorado voted to reintroduce livestock at the end of 2023.  A pack has naturally migrated to Colorado in 2021.  In early 2022, the first two cows and a dog were killed by wolves.  Extension agents face increasing requests for education about managing for wolves and about compensation programs.  Most have no formal training about wolves.  We have developed several different networks of experts and practitioners, and partnered with the state agency responsible for wolf management in Colorado (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) to develop a variety of training tools, including a website with educational materials and useful links to wolf information, ready-to-use presentations, expert speakers, forthcoming opportunities for training, and resources, such as mini grants, to offer training.

Outcomes and impacts:

here were no outcomes in 2021, but preparation was complete enough that we will offer our first training in February 2022 in the region where our first highly publicized wolf kills occurred in late December and early January.  More Extension education meetings  and opportunities for in-depth training will be offered in 2022

Educational & Outreach Activities

5 Consultations
14 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
6 Journal articles
5 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

25 Extension
6 Researchers
10 Farmers/ranchers

Learning Outcomes

25 Participants gained or increased knowledge, skills and/or attitudes about sustainable agriculture topics, practices, strategies, approaches

Project Outcomes

2 Grants received that built upon this project
40 New working collaborations
Project outcomes:

2021 was a year to prepare our educational programming.   We worked with several networks of professionals to build a library of educational materials, website, and to offer presentations.  However, we have held off programming for producers until 2022 because wolves have not been present in numbers sufficient to cause damage and because the state agency responsible for wolf planning is developing programs and asked us to hold off until they know more information.  All of that will change in 2022.

20 Agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
5 Farmers reached through participant's programs
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.