Some ranchers look at wildlife as a liability and as an obstacle to maximizing economic efficiency on their ranch. In some cases, wildlife can compete with livestock for forage, cause damage to haystacks and fences, and provide challenges for the rancher. Rather than looking at the negative aspect, lets look at some of the potential ways to make wildlife an economic positive for ranch operations.
Hunting access programs developed by state wildlife agencies can provide economic incentives for the landowner to provide public hunting on their ranch.The program in many cases will allow for a tailored plan where the landowner can determine, species, gender, season, and access for hunting on their lands.
Conservation easements are another potential incentive to provide for wildlife habitat. Most conservation easement payments are based on the value of the land as wildlife habitat, and/or the value of the land to be developed in the future. Although conservation easements may not appeal to everyone, it is another tool, providing the landowner flexibility in determining the long-range goals of the ranch.
Fee hunt and leasing can provide substantial cash flow to the landowner, and if managed properly by the landowner and/or outfitter, can allow for sound wildlife and habitat management. The key is to utilizing the right outfitter and/or group of hunters that will adhere and contribute toward your management goals.
Non-consumptive use such as wildlife photography, bird watching, big-game watching is a valid opportunity for some landowners to generate income, without the taking or harvest of animals. There are a growing number of people that are willing to pay for the opportunity to view and photograph wildlife, in a non-park type setting.
By Duffy Brown
Photo: Habitat enhancement performed at Three Creeks Ranch, a ranch for sale in Buffalo, Wyoming.