J Bar L Ranch, Centennial Valley
J Bar L Ranch J Bar L Ranch, Centennial Valley © Jesper Anhede

Stories in Montana

Expanding Our Partnership

The J Bar L Ranch is a critical partner to TNC in the Centennial Valley.

When you pull off the gravel road to the J Bar L Ranch, you may be struck by the expansive views and natural quiet. Twenty miles from pavement and surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of open land, the J Bar L is a working cattle ranch and vacation rental destination tucked within the secluded Centennial Valley.  The J Bar L has also been a long-time partner with The Nature Conservancy collaborating to steward the valley’s sweeping grasslands, lush wetlands and winding waters.

The Centennial Experience

The ranch offers visitors a chance to experience the Centennial first hand.  From the front porch of your cabin or ranch home, you might catch a glimpse of the countless pronghorn, moose, trumpeter swans, hawks, and countless other wildlife that call the Centennial home––you may even spot a roaming bear or wolf. Birders also love the place!

What you may not see are cattle. The ranch manager and crew spend a good part of their time on horseback, moving cattle across the range. The idea isn’t to keep them out of sight, but to keep them on the move, rotating the cattle regularly to support the valley’s rich wildlife habitat.

Swainson’s hawk
Raptor Soars above J Bar L Hawks, eagles, and falcons are among the wildlife that makes the Centennial Valley home. It's an ideal place for birding and wildlife-watching. © Jesper Anhede

Ranching for Resiliency

While cattle ranching has often been posed as a threat to native wildlife communities and stream sides, the J Bar L is committed to encouraging native plant and wildlife species by minimizing conflict with predators, and mimicking the historic grazing patterns of bison.

As one ranch hand explains, “The arid western landscape evolved with intensive, short duration grazing of buffalo. In order for these places to stay healthy, they need to be grazed well by large, grazing animals, as well as by native wildlife.”

This sort of ranching, what J Bar L calls “ranching for resiliency,” requires an intensive grazing schedule, long days on horseback moving the herd, and an unwavering commitment to work with nature’s natural patterns on the part of the ranch.

Partners in Conservation

The J Bar L shares a common boundary with the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge and TNC’s Centennial Sandhills Preserve. Besides being a good neighbor, they are a critical partner in our conservation of the valley. They’ve removed or modified miles of fencing to prevent injuries and obstacles to wildlife, and used wildlife-friendly fencing to keep livestock out of sensitive stream areas. They’ve restored damaged stream banks and been pioneers in testing innovative techniques to improve the long-term health of streams and wetlands. They’re also regularly riding the range to be on the lookout for predators and prevent conflicts between wildlife and cattle.

We appreciate the J Bar L’s commitment to conservation and thank them for this extra support of the Conservancy.