- photo by MichaelFurtman.com
Montana's Hi-Line is located just south of the Canadian border where U.S. Highway 2 connects towns that decades ago sprang up along the Great Northern Railway line. Across the Hi-Line you can find sprawling wheat fields, cattle ranches, and rolling prairies. The high density of wetland depressions and associated grasslands also found in this region provide vital breeding habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife.
Ducks Unlimited and its conservation partners have designated the Hi-Line, which encompasses Montana's portion of the Prairie Pothole Region, as a high-priority area for conservation work. DU uses several methods to conserve wetlands and valuable breeding habitat across the Hi-Line, including land acquisition, conservation easements, wetland restoration, and technical assistance.
Among DU's most successful conservation efforts on the Hi-Line is a partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), which enrolls landowners across the region in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Since 2011, DU has helped the NRCS enroll more than 900 acres in WRP, which enables landowners to protect and restore wetlands and associated uplands on their property. These WRP projects are located in Blaine, Daniels, and Phillips counties and include a combination of wetland and grassland restorations. More than half of the enrolled acres are located on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation and are the first WRP contracts on tribal lands in Montana.
This past spring, the NRCS completed two 30-year WRP contracts with members of the Fort Belknap Indian Community. These projects will help protect and restore the natural heritage of Gros Ventre and Assiniboine tribal lands and represent a significant step forward in efforts to protect these highly productive wetland-grassland complexes. The NRCS has worked with Fort Belknap Indian Community members to develop conservation plans to ensure that these diverse wetlands and grasslands are restored to provide prime habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife.