“Elk Rent” Payment-for-Presence Conservation Program
New partnership harnesses artificial intelligence and a unique payment model
Using advanced camera traps powered by artificial intelligence (AI) together with landowners’ innate knowledge of the land, this innovative program is the first of its kind in the region.
Paradise Valley serves as an important wintering ground for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s iconic elk herds. As rapid development threatens wildlife habitat in the valley, ranchers and their large, open land holdings play a valuable role in maintaining ecosystem connectivity. Providing habitat, however, comes at a cost.
Rather than paying ranchers for predator losses as traditional livestock compensation programs do, PERC’s payments are based on the presence of elk to specifically mitigate elk-livestock conflict. The pilot program is designed to test the payment-for-presence system as well as the efficiency of artificial intelligence game cameras with continuous refinement.
Druska Kinkie, who along with her husband and son run Emigrant Peak Ranch, regularly sees hundreds of elk on her property during peak migration season.
The heavy wildlife presence imposes costs through lost forage, infrastructure damage, and the threat of disease transfer, namely brucellosis, a reproductive disease that is spread from elk and bison to cattle.
“Elk are often viewed as uninvited guests on a rancher’s property. Ranchers are essentially feeding the elk at great personal expense. Ultimately, we need these private open lands to remain intact if we want to conserve this unique ecosystem, and paying ranchers directly for providing this public good is a critical step toward accomplishing that.”— Brian Yablonski, PERC CEO
Harnessing smart cameras to calculate elk rent
“This program has offered us a ray of hope. We want to do right by the elk, but not at the expense of our livelihoods. Compensating their presence offsets the costs they impose, making the elk less of a liability for us.”— Druska Kinkie
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