Montana approves state program’s first conservation leases

Jun 24, 2024

Last week, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved the state’s first leases under the state’s new Prairie Habitat Conservation Lease Program. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will lease more than 52,000 acres from private landowners across ten properties in eastern Montana. Under the leases, landowners will be required to commit to conserving high-priority prairie habitat while continuing with other uses including grazing and hunting. Eight of the ten leases will require approval from the Montana Land Board, which must approve agreements involving more than 500 acres or more than $1 million.

The program aims to ultimately protect as much as 500,000 acres of prairie in the next five years using 40-year conservation leases. Funding for the leases will come from multiple state and federal sources, including the state’s Habitat Montana program which is funded primarily by non-resident hunting and fishing license fees, and federal Pittman-Robertson funds from an excise tax on guns, archery equipment, and ammunition. Sage-grouse and other migratory grassland birds are among the species that are expected to benefit from the conservation lease program.

The future of wildfire season

In the latest episode of CWP’s podcast, The Landscape, Kate and Aaron are joined by Boise State Public Radio’s Murphy Woodhouse, a reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau collaborative. Murphy covers wildfires and wildfire policy across the West, informed by his past experience as a wildland firefighter. In a wide-ranging discussion, Murphy talks about the bleak state of wildfire pay, the possibility of much of the West becoming uninsurable because of wildfire risk, and much more.

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Quote of the day

A transition away from fossil fuels is the best way to prevent deaths and illness from heat in the future — everything else is just a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.”

—Dr. Renee Salas, New York Times

Picture This

@cratersofthemoon_nps Wildflower Alert! So many blooms are peeking up through the black lava lately (see what we did there?), it’s been an absolute wonder to behold. If you’re curious about the names of the flowers popping up through the park, we have a handy “what’s in bloom” board that’s regularly updated in the hallway of the Visitor Center. Pictured here: in the foreground, the blueish-purple Silverleaf Phacelia, the yellow circular blooms are Sulfur Buckwheat and in the background, the pink profusion of tiny flowers are Dwarf Monkeyflower. Have you been to Craters lately? What blooms caught your attention? (📍Craters of the Moon is part of the ancestral homeland of the Shoshone-Bannock peoples.) Photo by Ranger C. Orland


Feature image: Rangeland in eastern Montana, Matt Lavin via Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0