DU conserves record 100,000 acres in Montana

Working closely with partners, Ducks Unlimited conserves habitat in highest priority landscapes

The prairies of Montana

The prairies of Montana

By Bob Sanders, DU manager of Montana conservation programs

Ducks Unlimited, in concert with partners, impacted a record 100,037 acres and provided landowners technical assistance on more than 85,000 acres in Fiscal Year 2019. Strong partnerships and generous contributions from donors and volunteers are the backbone of the conservation accomplishments in Montana.   

Thanks to our partnership with USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS), Montana ranks number one in the delivery of USDA easements in the United States. DU conservation staff play key roles in delivering NRCS programs, including the Wetland Reserve Easement and the Agricultural Land Easement programs. During 2019, the USDA and DU partnership secured 76,896 acres of permanent and term habitat protection agreements and provided more than 85,000 acres of technical assistance on private lands. 

The partnership between DU, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and private landowners focuses on our highest priority landscapes along Montana’s Hi-Line. With many landowners converting marginal croplands to permanent grass cover, demand for USFWS programs has reached all-time highs. Ranchers pursuing easements on their lands receive a cash payment and qualify for cost-sharing to improve infrastructure, such as stock water for livestock and fencing. In 2018-19, USFWS and DU finalized easements with six landowners, which will permanently protect 12,638 acres of Montana’s Prairie Pothole habitat. These easements allow flexibility for ranchers to operate while keeping grasslands and wetlands intact. 

Restoration of wetlands, grasslands and ranch infrastructure through the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program improved 10,490 acres of priority waterfowl breeding habitat. This voluntary program provides conservation and financial assistance to private landowners who conserve fish and wildlife habitat on their properties for federal trust resources.  

For more information, contact Robert Sanders at rsanders@ducks.org or 406-492-2002.