The Nature Conservancy in Montana, the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program, the NRCS, and landowner Bryant Jones have officially finalized a roughly 4,000-acre conservation easement that protects sage grouse habitat and grasslands in southwest Montana. The Willow Basin Ranch project was approved for state sage grouse conservation funding in 2019 by the Montana Sage Grouse Oversight Team, and by the Natural Resources Conservation Service for Agricultural Land Easement Program funding through the Farm Bill.
“Our nearest neighbors are fifteen miles away,” says Jones. “I love the solitude and rugged untouched spirit the area has. It’s a unique and undeveloped corner of the world. I want to keep it that way.”
The Willow Basin easement is one of two recently completed in the High Divide by The Nature Conservancy in Montana. Together they secure nearly 7,000 acres of superb wildlife habitat as well as the future of these family ranches. These latest two easements are part of nearly 40,000 acres that TNC has secured since the winter of 2018.
“We are pleased to conserve what is essentially a ‘working wilderness’ where both wildlife and families who have been ranching for generations can both thrive,” says Jim Berkey, TNC’s High Divide Headwaters director. “These families are helping keep this vital habitat intact while helping feed the country.”
Montana TNC also reported it recently partnered with the USFWS and a central Montana landowner to conserve an additional 6,311 acres in Montana’s Northern Great Plains.
Jim Berkey/TNC Photo