Third-generation rancher Karl Rappold has a wealth of two things: family and grizzly bears. He’s working with The Nature Conservancy to protect both. The Rappold Ranch near Dupuyer, Montana, on the Rocky Mountain Front, provides important riparian habitat to grizzlies, in one of the only places where the bears still reside on the prairie. It’s also the place where Karl’s family has made a living raising cattle for generations, and he wanted to pass that ranching heritage on to his son.
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In order for his son to be able to join the family business, though, the Rappold Ranch had to grow. Tight profit margins in ranching don’t leave much room for expansion. That is why Karl and his family—like many other ranchers on the Front—decided to work with The Nature Conservancy, to help preserve both a landscape and a way of life.
When The Nature Conservancy and its partners purchased a conservation easement on the Rappold family ranch, the Rappolds were able to buy more ground for their cattle. The family then permanently protected the new property with a conservation easement as well. Grizzly bears have plenty of room to roam in the remote reaches of this ranch, and the Rappolds and their cattle are doing just fine too. Working closely with local ranchers who want to protect the land and the long-time traditions of working that land, The Nature Conservancy and its partners have permanently protected over 182,000 acres from development on the Front.
The Nature Conservancy has been working in Montana since 1976. Our first conservation easement was in the Blackfoot River Valley. Just as on the Front, we began that work with a group of ranchers and landowners who were concerned about development eroding both vital wildlife habitat and a traditional way of life. The Conservancy now operates community-based conservation program offices in four priority landscapes: The Crown of the Continent (which includes the Front and Western Montana), Southwest Montana, Northern Montana Prairies, and the Lower Yellowstone River. We’re proud to work closely with communities and landowners across Montana to bring a science-based focus to land and resource protection. In the North Fork of the Flathead, The Nature Conservancy worked with Nature Conservancy Canada and governments on both sides of the border to help close the door on mining in the Canadian portion of the watershed. Communities in Montana and British Columbia had been working to end the prospect of mining on the western edge of Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park for thirty years.
Through the Montana Legacy Project, the Conservancy worked with groups ranging from county commissions and loggers to snowmobilers and firefighters in order to reconnect 310,500 acres of former industrial timberland to millions of surrounding acres of public land. In Southwest Montana, we’re working with ranchers to permanently protect and restore one of the most important wildlife migration corridors in the Greater Yellowstone. On Montana’s Northern Prairies, the innovative “grassbank” based out of our 60,000 acre Matador Ranch is helping protect a huge swath of grassland critical for threatened grassland birds, along with other prairie animals like elk, pronghorn and swift fox.
Working closely with communities, landowners and partners, The Montana Chapter has permanently protected nearly a million acres. We base our work on science, but it is the long-term relationships we have developed through our commitment to the communities where we work that truly defines the Nature Conservancy in Montana.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service
The US Forest Service
The Bureau of Land Management
Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks
The Conservation Fund
Trust for Public Land
Ranchers Stewardship Alliance
Montana Association of Land Trusts
Rocky Mountain Front Weed Roundtable
And many private landowners, local land trusts, members and supporters
Creating a Legacy
We are lucky to live in a time and place where we can still make a difference. For example, the Crown of the Continent is still home to all the species that lived there when Lewis and Clark first explored the West. Our work makes certain that large landscapes and complete ecosystems will thrive for generations to come. We’re committed to ensuring that grizzly bears and lynx have the room they need to roam, that family ranches continue to stay that way, that people and wildlife have access to clean water, and that there is plenty of nature for us all to enjoy.
Digging Deeper: Related Stories, Projects and Information
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