Conserving a Grassland Wilderness

Carroll Easements - Bitter Creek

When we think of wilderness, an image of craggy mountain peaks often comes to mind, yet Bitter Creek’s remote range land may see fewer people than places in the well-known Bob Marshall Wilderness.  The Conservancy has helped retain the wild nature of this land, while preserving its ranching heritage with the purchase of more than 25,000 acres of conservation easements on the Carroll Ranch north of Glasgow. The land adjoins Montana’s largest proposed prairie wilderness, the Bitter Creek Wilderness Study Area. Between the public land and three Carroll easements, that means 23 miles of uninterrupted prairie habitat are now conserved.

Threatened grassland birds, pronghorn, and swift fox are among the animals that are benefiting from the easements. The Carroll ranch lands cover high quality mixed-grass prairie, wooded draws, wetlands and badlands. Pronghorn and greater sage-grouse both depend on this land for their twice-yearly migrations. In the case of sage-grouse, this area is in the heart of a migratory path of the birds’ longest journey – more than 100 miles each way. And the largest number of sage-grouse leks in the area is found on the Carroll property. These sage-grouse are also Canada’s last sustainable population, making their conservation of international concern.

Similarly, declining birds that depend on this land include Sprague’s pipit, chestnut-collared longspurs, Baird’s sparrows, lark buntings, and long-billed curlews.  Other Species of Concern that find refuge here are the tiny swift fox and regal ferruginous Hawk.

We want to thank the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service and The Conservation Fund for their support in the purchase of these easements.

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