Montana

Crown of the Continent

Ranching families, like the Crarys of Choteau, are essential partners to our conservation of the Crown.

DONATE to conserve the Crown of the Continent

It’s been called one of nature’s “last Edens” – just a scattering of places left on the entire planet untouched by the rash of plant and animal extinctions that have decimated so much of the natural world. This 12 million-acre mosaic of high peaks, forest, prairie, rivers, and wetlands envelops Glacier-Waterton National Parks and straddles the Canadian border and Continental Divide. Generations of families also have made a living working alongside wildlife and maintaining a conservation ethic deeply connected to the intrinsic value of nature.

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.  

THREATS

  • 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 and inhibits vital wildlife movement.
  • Declining profit margins put pressure on families to subdivide ranches in order to survive.
  • Energy companies are exploring the potential for oil and gas development here.

OUR VISION

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 protected more than 750,000 acres on the Crown – most of it by direct purchase. In order to secure its long-term conservation, we will need to nearly double that success. 

TOOLS AND STRATEGY

  • We are reconnecting the public and private forest land that had been fractured more than a century ago. Since 1995, we’ve purchased more than 520,000 acres on the Crown, through the Clearwater Blackfoot, Montana Legacy and Blackfoot Community Projects.
  • We are restoring western forests by thinning badly overgrown stands, reintroducing fire, removing unneeded roads and repairing damaged streams to heal old scars and prepare the land to withstand the impacts of climate change.
  • Our North Fork NOW! Campaign helped stop mining and energy development on more than 400,000 acres in the Canadian headwaters of the Flathead River.
  • Our involvement on the Crown was sparked by the energy of its local communities, and they continue to be vital partners to setting goals and achieving success.  

 

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