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The Role of Private Lands in Conserving Yellowstone’s Wildlife in the Twenty-First Century

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park lie at the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), one of the world’s largest nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems and a globally significant model for natural resource management. Over the past half-century, the GYE has played a major role in the introduction, evolution, and popularization of the ecosystem concept, and in its application through the paradigms of ecosystem management and large-scale conservation. The GYE concept implies that the integrity of core protected areas depends on a larger landscape encompassing multiple-use federal, state, and private lands, making coordination essential to maintaining the larger ecosystem.

This paper brings together insights from several fields, including environmental history, ecology, economics, human geography, and law, to identify the necessary conditions for a successful expansion of private-lands conservation in the GYE. This research references PERC’s work on developing tools to incentivize private landowners to conserve wildlife and habitat such as our forthcoming brucellosis compensation fund and elk occupancy agreements.


Written By
  • Arthur Middleton
    • Impact Fellow

    Arthur is an assistant professor of wildlife management and policy at the University of California – Berkeley and director of the Middleton lab. He also currently serves as a Trustee of the Buffalo Bill Center of the West and a science advisor to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

  • Temple Stoellinger
    Temple Stoellinger
    • Senior Fellow

    Temple Stoellinger is a PERC senior fellow and an assistant professor at the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming as well as co-director of the Center for Law and Energy Resources in the Rockies.

  • Drew Bennett

    Drew Bennett is the Whitney MacMillan Professor of Practice of Private Lands Stewardship in the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming.

  • Laura Gigliotti

    Laura Gigliotti is a postdoc in the Middleton Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.

  • Hilary Byerly Flint

    Hilary Byerly is a behavioral economist and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wyoming.

  • Bryan Leonard
    • Fellowship Director,
    • Senior Fellow

    Bryan Leonard is an associate professor of environmental and natural resource economics in the School of Sustainability and a faculty affiliate in the Economics Department and the Center for Behavior, Institutions, and the Environment at Arizona State University. He is also a senior fellow at PERC, a PERC fellowship director, and a 2017 and 2018 PERC Lone Mountain Fellow. 

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