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Pronghorn assist

A grant will help the BLM's Miles City office remove old sheep fence in a critical pronghorn winter range.

BRETT FRENCH, Gazette Staff

Eastern Montana will benefit from thousands of dollars of grant money from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to maintain or improve interconnected native grasslands.

In announcing the grants this week, the foundation said it had awarded $2.81 million for projects on 65,000 acres spread across plains states, which also included Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The grants will generate $9.66 million in matching contributions for a total conservation impact of $12.47 million.

The 16 grants will bolster efforts to sustain, restore and enhance habitats that support populations of grassland species such as greater sage grouse, mule deer, pronghorn and black-footed ferrets while also preserving ranching and farming in the Northern Great Plains.

As an example of the grants, a $50,000 matching grant to the Bureau of Land Management's Miles City Field Office will help remove 10 miles of woven wire sheep fence, a migration obstacle, in prime pronghorn winter range. 

Other Montana grants will help secure conservation easements including: 9,900 acres of the Weaver Cattle Co. in Chouteau County ($150,000 grant for a $2.81 million Montana Land Reliance project); 21,000 acres of the Ringling Ranch in Carter County ($300,000 for a $3.1 million MLR project); 4,000 acres of the Cornwell Ranch in Valley County ($150,000 grant for a $300,000 Nature Conservancy project).

“Many of these collaborative projects are led by local ranching communities, and NFWF is excited to support such voluntary efforts,” said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF, in a press release.

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The Northern Great Plains Program also supports local projects where ranching communities and conservation organizations promote the common interest of intact grasslands. As an example, a $300,000 grant was awarded to the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance which will help restore native grass and enhance management of working rangelands in Montana’s Milk River grasslands.

The Northern Great Plains Program is a partnership between NFWF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, BLM, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, a private funding source and BNSF Railways.

“The actions of these partners provide the framework to keep the northern Great Plains grasslands healthy and supporting natural and social resources for generations to come,” said Jane Darnell, deputy regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Region. "This initiative helps improve the grasslands and surrounding communities, working across ownerships and interests."

The Northern Great Plains Program was launched by NFWF in 2013. The program seeks to conserve, restore and improve 1 million grassland acres by 2026.

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