May 21, 2018

Rocky Mountain Front Acquisition Benefits Ranching Family and Grizzlies

PONDERA AND TETON COUNTIES, Mont. — Matt and Stacy Crabb have managed ranchlands on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountain Front for the last 11 years. When the opportunity arose for them to acquire more than 8,500 acres to establish and expand their own ranching business, they turned to The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for help. Together they developed a plan that would enable the Crabbs to purchase the ranchland along the Front, while protecting native prairie habitat where grizzly bears still roam freely with support from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

In late 2017, the Crabbs purchased 8,586 acres of ranchland along the Rocky Mountain Front and placed a conservation easement limiting development on the property. The Conservation Fund is temporarily holding the easement until federal funding from the LWCF is available for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to purchase it. The Crabbs are employing ranch management that benefits both their burgeoning business and the important ecosystems and wildlife habitat on the ranch.

“For us, placing a conservation easement on this ranchland was critical,” said Stacy Crabb. “We wanted to be able to expand our business while ensuring that the land will be protected for generations to come. We’re so glad that, with help from The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we were able to do just that.”

Large working ranches like the Crabbs’ ranch play a vital role in conserving fish and wildlife habitat in the Rocky Mountain Front, a wildlife-rich region where mountain slopes transition into vast plains. Private lands along the Front provide habitat for grizzly bears, trumpeter swans, long-billed curlews and numerous other species of grassland birds. Protecting these lands through conservation easements helps to maintain the biological integrity of this iconic landscape while ensuring a way of life for ranchers and others who depend on the land for their livelihoods. 

"Thanks to partnership between the Crabb family, The Conservation Fund, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this native prairie will continue to sustain both people and wildlife for years to come," said David Allen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "By working together, we were able to conserve over 8,000 acres of spectacular wildlife habitat and bolster the local ranching community." 

The Conservation Fund will transfer the easement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service using LWCF funding that recently became available through the Congressionally-approved Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations. 

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large) supported the request for LWCF funding in the Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area and helped secure the Congressional appropriations for the program. LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars—to acquire critical lands and protect our country’s best natural resources for more than 50 years.

“The Rocky Mountain Front is home to some of the last untouched places in the country and this project will help keep it that way,” said Senator Jon Tester. “The Crabb Ranch Project is one great reason why I’ve fought so hard to permanently authorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. I want to thank the Crabb family and all the partners who are working every day to keep Montana the Last Best Place.”

“This is a great example of how the LWCF helps hard-working farmers and ranchers support their livelihood while also protecting Montana’s treasured wildlife and scenic areas,” said Senator Steve Daines. “I will continue to support this important program so we can continue conserving the Montana way of life.”

“The Crabb ranch is a great example of collaborating to achieve multiple goals,” said Rep. Greg Gianforte. “I was happy to support a well-rounded project that will help hardworking Montana families grow their operation, as well as protect habitat for the deer and other big game that are the backbone of Montana’s hunting heritage. This is what LWCF should be, and why I support the program.” 

“This is the perfect example of a conservation solution making economic sense,” said Gates Watson, The Conservation Fund’s Montana and Northwest Director. “We’re grateful to the Crabbs for their holistic vision for the land that takes into account the critical and sensitive wildlife habitat of the Rocky Mountain Front, and we appreciate the leadership of the Montana Congressional Delegation for supporting ongoing reauthorization efforts for LWCF and ensuring that this essential conservation tool is available for this and future efforts on the Front.”

“This project is an outstanding example of how LWCF funding can be used strategically and creatively to achieve both community and conservation goals," said Dave Carr of The Nature Conservancy. "Lasting conservation was secured on a large swath of increasingly rare native grasslands while also helping a young ranch family get a toe hold and build their future. An all-too-infrequent occurrence in today’s ag economy.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are redefining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect nearly eight million acres of land, including nearly 250,000 acres in Montana.   

About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. In Montana, we are conserving lands, waters, wildlife and the Montana way of life. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit


Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |