The Proposed Missouri Headwaters Conservation Area - What You Need to Know

Right now, the US Fish and Wildlife Service is taking comments on a proposal to create a conservation area in parts of five counties in SW Montana. If enacted, private landowners would be eligible for voluntary, LWCF-funded conservation easements.

Read why Montana BHA is fully supporting the Missouri Headwaters Conservation Area.

If helpful, here are some of our bulleted reasonings. Please use these to craft your own comments, but please use your own words. The deadline to comment is November 27th. 

  1. Cows not condos. These lands would stay in private ownership, and uses such as grazing and farming would be maintained. The obvious benefit for Montana, and for hunters and anglers specifically, is that our public fish and wildlife see no property boundaries and not only benefit from - but rely on - the private lands habitat provided by our landowning neighbors. By preventing subdivisions and future large-scale development on these key private lands, we’ll ensure that critical wildlife habitat remains.

  2. Let’s keep Montana, Montana. We cannot ignore the growing pressures to develop the working lands that make Montana so special. Property taxes are rising, changes to climate are making damaging weather events more common, and it's becoming more difficult for our farming and ranching neighbors to make a living and afford to live their preferred way of life. Conservation easements offer a voluntary financial tool in the toolbox for landowners to keep their lands, keep them working, and keep their businesses in the family.

  3. Not funded by taxes! As one of the leading organizations advocating for the full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), BHA is pleased to see this funding source - made possible by offshore oil and gas revenues, not taxes - be identified to accomplish what would be large-scale and lasting conservation wins in Montana.

  4. This is prime elk country. The eligible project area makes up a significant portion of Montana’s Region 3, which holds 42 percent of our state's elk herd according to 2022 population surveys. Elk and other big game spend much of the year on private lands, which often offer crucial wintering grounds and big-game movement and migration corridors. Conservation efforts like these would go a long way in sustaining our public elk herd.

  5. Our rivers and fish will benefit too. In recent years, two of the world-famous, Blue Ribbon trout streams of southwest Montana - the Big Hole and Beaverhead - have both been experiencing rapid degradation in fishing and/or water quality. Conserving the watersheds of these two rivers - the lifeblood for the area's outdoor recreation and agricultural economies - will only help to keep cold, clean water flowing where and when it's needed.

  6. Public access? Though we appreciate and encourage public access, our support for this proposal certainly does not rely on it; we fully recognize that any conservation easements would still be a significant achievement, benefiting fish and wildlife of all sorts. That said, the one thing we’d like to see included in this proposal is an optional public access component, to be met with higher rates of compensation.

  7. Let landowners decide! This program is entirely voluntary; no one will be forced to do anything, meaning that the people best suited to decide what to do with their land - the landowners - can continue to make those decisions. It's no surprise that this project is landowner-driven.

With that, we've offered our enthusiastic support of this thoughtful, forward-looking proposal that will benefit Montana's landowners, our wildlife, our rural economies, and our hunting and fishing heritage, and we encourage you to add your voice of support as well.



Kevin Farron, Regional Policy Manager
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

About Kevin Farron

BHA's Regional Policy Manager (MT, ND, SD). Based in Missoula, MT

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