As part of ongoing efforts to conserve intact prairie pothole habitat, Ducks Unlimited and its foundation, Wetlands America Trust
, recently acquired a 2,158-acre complex of grassland and wetland habitat in north-central Montana's "Hi-Line." Known locally as the Wingert Place, the ranch is a prime example of short-grass prairie and seasonal wetland habitat. More than 200 acres of seasonal prairie pothole
wetlands are scattered throughout the ranch and will provide quality migration and breeding habitat for a variety of waterfowl and other bird species.
"This was a unique opportunity to conserve some of Montana's best remaining grassland and wetland habitats," said Bob Sanders, DU's manager of conservation programs for Montana
. "The ranch has almost 10 percent wetland cover, which is extremely high for this part of the Prairie Pothole Region."
The Henderson family initiated the conversation last October when they called Sanders to ask if DU was interested in buying land. "Many people don't realize that DU often accepts donations of land and will sometimes purchase properties with high waterfowl habitat values," Sanders said. "Thankfully, we were able to work with the Henderson family and everything came together to conserve this well-managed piece of prairie habitat."
DU plans to keep the ranch in livestock grazing and will explore a variety of conservation options to ensure the grassland and wetland values of the ranch are perpetuated.
"Cattle grazing is a key component of these systems, and we will continue to have the land in grass-based agriculture," Sanders said. "A strong local ranching economy is vital to local communities and to the conservation of waterfowl and other wildlife species."