Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Martin Nie

Commitee Members

Michelle Bryan, Brian Chaffin


policy, fence, USFS, BLM, wildlife, wildlife-friendly


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Natural Resources Management and Policy


Many wildlife species are negatively impacted by the presence of fences on the landscape. Climate change is only exacerbating the problem as home ranges shift and species face heightened levels of stress. In recent decades, wildlife biologists have studied these impacts and devised ways of constructing fences to increase habitat connectivity and significantly reduce fence-related injury and mortality rates. Conservationists attempting to address this issue on a landscape level face significant challenges resulting from complex land ownership patterns, specifically across the western United States.

The two largest landowners in the U.S. are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). These federal agencies, which manage their jurisdictional lands on behalf of the American public, construct fences and issue permits and leases to construct fences on much of their lands for a variety of reasons. This professional paper addresses a piece of the wildlife-fence conflict by summarizing and analyzing the polices that guide fence practices on USFS and BLM lands. Specifically, this paper (1) summarizes and describes the statutes, regulations, and directives that are most relevant and potentially useful to making wildlife-friendly decisions about fencing on federal public lands administered by the USFS and BLM, (2) summarizes the fence-related guidance provided in USFS and BLM regulations and directives related to forest/field office planning, allotment management planning, and grazing permit decision making, (3) explains how these policies can be drawn upon by the USFS and BLM to consider, justify, and compel the use of wildlife-friendly fencing, and (4) provides recommendations to wildlife advocates for policy-level changes that can be made to better encourage and compel the consideration and use of wildlife-friendly fences on federal lands managed by these agencies.

The ultimate purpose of this paper is to arm wildlife advocates with the information necessary to successfully advocate for improved fence policy and practice on USFS and BLM lands. By setting a strong example, these agencies could positively impact the fence policies and practices of other agencies and landowners, contributing to a positive, landscape-scale impact for wildlife.



© Copyright 2021 Joshua D. Elliott