Range Rider Program
A Tool to Promote Healthy Grasslands and Coexistence with Wildlife
For a century ranchers used “range riders” or “herders” to protect their livestock from predators, mostly through lethal means. Times changed, and range riders faded away to legend. Today, most ranchers turn their cattle out on summer pastures with little oversight by a rider or herder. If problems occur, ranchers or government trappers turn to lethal means to stop the predation.
However, in small pockets of Montana, range riding has emerged as an effective and nonlethal tool for ranchers in grizzly and wolf country.
Reduced livestock losses from predators are a compelling reason to use range riders, but an even stronger case can be made. Actively managing grazing with regenerative practices can benefit overall grassland health. The healthier the grasslands, the healthier the cattle and the habitat for prey species The healthier the habitat the less likely wolves and bears will turn to livestock for food. Furthermore, the more robust a regenerative grazing program, the less ranchers rely on expensive herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers, thus lowering their operating costs and increasing their profitability.
WSE believes that if range riders receive specialized training, they could not only deter predation, but also serve as on-the-ground grassland managers, ensuring that grazing is done in ways that enhance grassland health. WSE—in partnership with the Tom Miner Basin Association, other ranchers, and the Natural Resources Defense Council—has developed a Range Rider education program to provide that training.
Western Sustainability Exchange believes that with sufficient support and training this old strategy can create coexistence between humans and wildlife, as well as improve range and riparian health, protect habitat, increase drought resilience, and sequester carbon.
Program Contact: Chris Mehus 406.222.0730, ext. 6