With over one-half of the 2.3 billion acres of the U.S. in agriculture—and nearly one-third of the nation used for grazing—farms and ranches are both a great threat and potential solution to maintaining an intact environment for human and wildlife communities alike. Making room for wide-ranging species on agricultural lands is critical to the future of wildlife as open space diminishes. Yet, on-farm wildlife conservation activities can be labor-intensive, and require ecological understanding and adaptations to infrastructure.
Certified Wildlife Friendly® and Predator Friendly® farms and ranches bridge the domestic and wild by maintaining habitat and protecting biodiversity as an integral part of their production systems. Loyal customer bases, price premiums, and access to new markets help farm and ranch ecosystem stewards carry out their hands-on actions to help wildlife. Developed by the field’s committed practitioners, the reliance of Wildlife Friendly® producers upon practices that conserve biodiversity and help protect ecosystem services is a model without peer.
The Conservation Enterprise
Both Certified Wildlife friendly® and Predator Friendly® certification recognize wildlife stewardship practices and require conservation of key species, including carnivores. From clean water to pollination to nutrient cycling, certified farms and ranches provide tremendous opportunity for conservation of the systems critical to human health and well-being. Find a certified producer near you or ask your farmer to consider certification.
Rural people in the northern Patagonia habitat of the Andean cat make a subsistence living off of goats.Many of these people are transhumant herders who travel along traditional routes with their flocks up to 200 km between winter and summer feeding grounds, accompanied by their families and sometimes even the children’s school teacher. Goats destroy habitat, compete with native wildlife such as the guanaco and rhea, and are eaten by native carnivores, mostly the puma, which, in turn, are killed by herders to prevent predation. Decades of overgrazing and an increasingly drier climate have made it more difficult for herders to survive threatening their livelihoods and culture.
The Wildlife Conservation Society working with the herders has found that local, mixed-breed dogs can work very well to deter predation and stop herders from killing carnivores. They are inexpensive to obtain and keep, and are adapted to local conditions.
In addition, people need an alternative to make a better living off of fewer goats. In turn, this will help habitat to recover, and reduce competition and conflict with wildlife. The local goat is a unique breed that evolved from the Spanish stock brought here over 100 years ago. It was recently discovered that this breed in northern Patagonia produces a fine undercoat of cashmere. Unlike in other parts of the world, where demand for cashmere has led to overstocking of goats, destruction of habitat, and reduction of wildlife, in Patagonia, goats are already living on the edge, and quality cashmere can only be produced through better, sustainable management of flocks. The supply of this fine fiber will always be limited.
The Conservation Enterprise
Herders who agree not to kill Andean cats and other small cats, and to manage their herds sustainably, receive Wildlife Friendly® certification of their cashmere. This fine fiber is precious for its quality, its scarcity, its contribution to preserving a way of life, and, in contrast to the very fine, more widely available Asian cashmeres, its contribution to the conservation of northern Patagonian wildlife and habitats.