Cattle on the move near the Matador Ranch
Cattle on the Move Cattle on the move near the Matador Ranch © Ami Vitale

Places We Protect

The Matador Ranch

Montana

Helping conserve wildlife and family ranching.

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. 

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