Thanks to the overwhelming initial success and boundless opportunities of Audubon Conservation Ranching (ACR), Montana Audubon is pleased to announce that we have established the permanent Conservation Ranching department internally. Christian Meny, who has managed the program since November 2021, has been promoted to assume leadership in the department as Director of Conservation Ranching.
In spring 2022, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) awarded Montana Audubon a grant of $488,000, that will, with matching funds, provide $1.1 million for the Audubon Conservation Ranching (ACR) initiative in Montana. This growing effort, hatched by the National Audubon Society and implemented here by Montana Audubon, is aimed at stabilizing declining grassland bird populations. The funds will enable us to implement on-the-ground ranchland habitat projects, ultimately improving grassland bird habitat across 300,000 acres for species like the Thick-billed Longspur, Lark Bunting and Greater Sage-Grouse.
With Audubon Conservation Ranching, enrolled landowners initiate habitat improvements for birds and other wildlife through a certification program. Once third-party certified, producers earn use of the Audubon Certified seal, a consumer package designation that identifies a product’s origin from lands managed for birds and biodiversity. Montana currently has 12 Audubon Certified ranches that span more than 110,230 acres.
When certifying ranches, Montana Audubon learns a lot about each property’s land management goals by writing a customized Habitat Management Plan (HMP). Upon rancher approval, the HMP enables Montana Audubon to support implementation of the work through successful grant awards, as was the case for NFWF Northern Great Plains funding. Recently, Montana Audubon has begun to deliver funds for the first land management projects on Audubon Certified ranches.
To date, Montana Audubon has effectively delivered NFWF funds to a bank re-stabilization project on a ranch near Two Dot and purchased seeds for a native plant project on 70 acres in Lavina. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the next three years, we will deliver projects spanning from water delivery pipelines and wildlife-friendly fencing to beaver dam analogues on a number of ranches across the Northern Great Plains of Montana.
Northern Great Plains Region of Montana in Olive Green
“Like grasslands everywhere, Montana’s prairie and sagebrush ecosystems are in danger – grasslands are the most threatened ecosystem in the U.S.,” says Christian Meny, Director of Conservation Ranching with Montana Audubon. “Our primary goal is to support ranchers that are strong land stewards, so that they can continue to support healthy wildlife habitat.”
About Audubon Conservation Ranching
A wildlife habitat initiative of the National Audubon Society with a unique market approach, Audubon Conservation Ranching’s purpose is to stabilize declining grassland bird populations in partnership with ranchers – on whose land 95 percent of grassland birds live. Audubon Conservation Ranching’s enrollment includes 92 ranches, covering more than 2.5 million acres that have earned status as Audubon Certified bird-friendly land. Incentivizing this habitat work for birds and biodiversity are consumers with an appetite for conservation, who support it with the purchase of products grazed on these lands. Shoppers see a special package designation – the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal – that sets these products apart. For more information, visit Audubon.org/ranching.