Ranching families, like the Crarys of Choteau, are essential partners to our conservation of the Crown.
It’s been called one of nature’s “last Edens” – just a scattering of places left on the entire planet that seem untouched by the rash of plant and animal extinctions that have decimated so much of the natural world. This 10-million-acre mosaic of high peaks, forest, prairie, rivers, and wetlands envelops Glacier National Park and straddles the Canadian border and Continental Divide.
Life on the Crown
The Crown shelters wildlife that has disappeared in most of its historic range. Grizzly bears, wolverines, and wolves still roam freely. Most of the critical habitat for threatened Canada lynx is here and the Crown is a vital link between the wildlands of Canada, Yellowstone, and Idaho. It offers the range of elevation and biological diversity that animals will need to survive our changing climate. On the eastern flank, the Rocky Mountain Front, the broad prairie collides with the ragged reefs of the Rockies. To the west, dense forests protect the headwaters of some of Montana’s most iconic rivers – the Blackfoot, Swan, and Flathead among them.
Resources of the Crown sustain vibrant local economies rooted in family ranching and timber production. The pristine waters of the Flathead and Blackfoot Rivers, Flathead Lake, and Glacier National Park are the foundations of a significant recreation and tourist industry.
The Crown isn’t just extraordinary by Montana standards; it’s a global treasure.
- The demand for recreational development is a tremendous threat. The resulting spread of noxious weeds degrades wildlife food sources and roads, structures, and fences threaten to sever the vital pathways that link animals to essential range.
- A fractured checkerboard of one-mile-square parcels of private land intermingled with public holdings in the western Crown poses an enormous potential for development.
- Declining profit margins put pressure on families to subdivide ranches in order to survive.
- Energy companies have already begun exploring the potential for oil, gas, and coal development here.
Our goal is to ensure the future for wildlife and the people who live, work, and play on the Crown by conserving the integrity of this whole and healthy natural system. In a place where the range of a single male grizzly can be more than 200 square miles, our vision must be equally grand. Since 1978, the Conservancy and our partners have preserved nearly a million acres of the Crown. In order to secure its long-term conservation, we will need to nearly double that success.
Tools and Strategy
- Purchase of threatened private lands - Since 1995, we’ve purchased more than 400,000 acres on the Crown, through the Montana Legacy and Blackfoot Community Projects. Because much of this private land was intermingled with public holdings, the conservation benefits are greatly multiplied as we re-stitched habitat that had been fractured by this mixed ownership.
- Prevent damaging energy extraction - Our North Fork NOW! Campaign helped stop mining and energy development in the Canadian headwaters of the Flathead River. To complete the picture, we push for the permanent retirement of all mineral leases on the U.S. portion of the North Fork.
Teamwork and collaboration - Our involvement on the Crown was sparked by the energy of its local communities, and they continue to be vital partners to success.
Download a Crown of the Continent Fact Sheet (pdf 3 KB)