PERC (the Property and Environment Research Center) is pioneering a virtual boundary that will allow elk and other wild species to follow their traditional migration patterns.
PERC’s announcement calls it “a virtual fence network that allows the rancher to remotely map and manage livestock through a series of signal towers and GPS collars worn by cows.”
Barbed wire is one of the great anecdotes illustrating the importance of protecting property rights and the role of innovation. Now, however, barbed wire fences are obstacles to elk migration. PERC has been experimenting with a variety of efforts to allow elk migration without disrupting livestock.
Why was barbed wire so important? As economist Daniel Benjamin wrote, in the arid West there weren’t enough trees for fences. This meant that livestock could not be protected. and would wander on to other people’s property. “As early as the 1840s, the lack of timber throughout the Plains was recognized as the single most important barrier to settlement.”
Barbed wire—invented by Joseph Glidden in 1874—made it possible to fence in cattle. Barbed wire increased the value of the protected land and helped settle the West.
Now, another innovation may be on the horizon, one that could protect both ranch animals and wild elk.