Places We Protect

The Matador Ranch

Montana

Brown and black cattle spread out in lines across rolling green hills.
Cattle on the Move Cattle on the move near the Matador Ranch © Ami Vitale

Helping conserve wildlife and family ranching.

Overview

Description

Why You Should Visit

The Nature Conservancy’s Matador Ranch sits within some of North America’s best remaining northern mixed-grass prairie. This land supports grassland birds that are in decline throughout their range. It is also home to black-tailed prairie dogs and the longest migration of pronghorn on Earth.

The ranch is the site of our pioneering grassbank and the hub of research on grassland conservation. 

Join rangeland ecologist, Kelsey Molloy, on a virtual wildflower walk.

The Matador Grassbank

TNC’s pioneering grassbank program evolved in 2002 following severe drought, and ranchers were faced with selling off their herds if they couldn’t find grazing. They found grass at the Matador Ranch. Ranchers were able to rest their drought-weary ranchlands and a great partnership was born between TNC and our neighbors.

The way the grassbank works, local ranchers pay discounted fees to graze their cattle on the Matador in exchange for wildlife-friendly practices on their own operations.  At a minimum that must control noxious weeds and not break any new ground (sodbusting). After that, the lease price drops for additional conservation measures such as protecting prairie dog towns, securing Sage-grouse leks, or modifying fences to make them safer for wildlife.

“We are real pleased with this opportunity,” says rancher Dale Veseth, “This has made a huge difference in this community… When you help feed families and cows, they’ll remember.”

The grassbank has allowed ranchers to broaden their stewardship in ways that increased benefits to wildlife, without reducing the already slim profit margins for ranching. So far, the partnership has conserved more than 350,000 acres of the most important remaining habitat for grassland birds, pronghorn, prairie dogs, and Sage-grouse in the country. 

Science

The Matador is on track to be a center for scientific research on grassland conservation. The ranch has already played a key role in tracking imperiled Long-billed Curlews. long-term research based on-site. 

Matador Ranch

For information and ranch visits contact Charlie Messerly:
4883 Ranch Road, Dodson, MT 59524
Phone:  406-673-3344
 

 

Access

OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

For information and ranch visits, call 406-673-3344.

Explore our work in this region

Wildflower Walk: Season One

Join our rangeland ecologist, Kelsey Molloy, as she takes us on a weekly tour of the many wildflowers and other plants blooming in and around TNC’s Matador Ranch, located in Montana’s Northern Great Plains. Watch episode one below.

To see the rest of the season including all 10 episodes, visit the playlist on YouTube.

Wildflower Watch Join our rangeland ecologist, Kelsey Malloy, as she takes us on a weekly tour of the many wildflowers and other plants blooming in and around TNC’s Matador Ranch, located in Montana’s Northern Great Plains.
Orange sun setting across a grassy field.

Visit Our Matador Ranch Story Map

The Nature Conservancy's (TNC) Matador Ranch spans 60,000 acres of grassland in north central Montana. TNC is using the ranch and grazing as tools to maintain wildlife habitat, test sustainable ranching practices, and work with local family ranchers to preserve some of the last, intact stretches of native grassland on the Northern Great Plains. Much of the work centers around the ranch’s pioneering grassbank, where area ranchers receive discounted grazing leases on the Matador in exchange for implementing conservation practices on their own operations.

This story map takes you on a journey through a year of activity at the Ranch. Follow the movement of cattle from our participating grassbank ranchers. Enjoy the abundance of wildflowers in spring. Learn about our efforts to reduce barriers to pronghorn migration in the fall. See how native grasses can help in our fight against climate change, and so much more.