The Nature Conservancy has just secured a conservation easement on 15,959 acres of land on the Carroll ranch, north of Glasgow, Montana. The easement will contribute toward the conservation of one of the most intact grasslands on the continent.


Bitter Creek, MT | June 20, 2016
The easement encompasses all of the private lands along the northern border of the Bitter Creek Wilderness Study Area, the largest proposed grassland wilderness in the Great Plains. The easement property and public land together comprise 21 miles of uninterrupted habitat.

The easement and surrounding public lands are predominantly grasslands, but also encompass streamside woodland, wetlands, wooded draws, and badlands. The continuity and expanse of native grasslands provides invaluable habitat for a suite of declining grassland birds – the most imperiled group of birds in North America. This region of Montana supports the country’s largest populations of four songbirds, Sprague’s pipit, Baird’s sparrow, McCown’s longspur, and chestnut-collared longspur, as well as, the longest migratory population of greater sage-grouse. The wooded draws and deep coulees provide important winter cover for mule deer, while pronghorn, swift fox, badger, and other prairie wildlife are year-round residents.

This is the third easement that landowner Sterling Carroll has placed on his land around Bitter Creek.

“I’m proud to be a part of preserving this land. It’s in a large tract and it really should stay that way. I’m just glad to be able to work with The Nature Conservancy to accomplish it.”

“This project contributes to the Conservancy’s larger efforts on the Northern Great Plains to keep this working grasslands wilderness intact and working for people and nature”, said Brian Martin, Director of Grassland Conservation for The Nature Conservancy in Montana.

Martin attributed the robust wildlife populations to the careful stewardship by local landowners and public agencies, which have worked together for decades in managing the grasslands. To date, the Conservancy has worked with ranch owners to conserve 37,000 acres of land around Bitter Creek. The newest easement and past easements ensure that ranches can continue to be profitable through on-going livestock grazing and ranch operations, while prohibiting plowing the native grassland, the biggest threat to prairie wildlife.

Partners in the project included the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through their Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), and The Conservation Fund, which both provided financial support for this project.

ACEP provides financial and technical assistance to help conserve agricultural lands and wetlands and their related benefits.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the web at To learn about the Conservancy’s global initiatives, visit To keep up with current Conservancy news, follow @nature_press on Twitter.