Mountain-Prairie Region  Partners for Fish & Wildlife

Natural resource professionals are continually challenged by the realities of limited budgets, staff shortages, and greater program accountability. These issues have forced progressive managers to look for better ways to use scarce resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is widely acknowledged as a fresh approach to fish and wildlife conservation but, like any other tool, the program must be applied correctly. In it’s early years, Montana’s PFW Program was largely opportunistic. From 1988 to 1996, we often let landowner inquiries dictate our priorities and we rarely said "no" to potential projects. There was no attempt to focus the program in critical watersheds or threatened landscapes. Eventually it became obvious that this random approach to habitat restoration was an ineffective use of scarce resources. By 1997, we were convinced we needed to establish defined Focus Areas.

During the same time period we discovered that both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners were also grappling with these issues. The Fish and Wildlife Service, through it’s Ecosystem Approach Initiative, was trying to implement a new way of dealing with natural resource conservation. The Nature Conservancy, U. S. Department of Agriculture, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Watershed Groups, The Arctic Grayling Recovery Program, Ducks Unlimited, and Trout Unlimited also recognized the need to focus. Many of these organizations reinforced their commitment to this principle by developing strategic plans. Examples include; The Nature Conservancy’s Statewide Conservation Plan, the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Priority Areas, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park's Bull Trout Recovery Areas, and Ducks Unlimited’s Joint Venture Areas. We looked carefully at guidelines from other plans to help us establish criteria for selecting Montana’s PFW Focus Areas. Those criteria include; abundance and diversity of trust species, degree of habitat fragmentation, partnering opportunities, threats, our ability to enhance connectivity between public lands, and proximity to existing U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field stations.

Focus Area Map

We are committed to confining our work to designated Focus Areas. Each Focus Area is described in detail, and is, in effect, a strategic plan for Montana’s Program. Readers will see a consistent pattern in the descriptions. Each focus area includes sections on location, trust species, conservation strategies, accomplishments, and future needs. We don’t view the eight Focus Areas as the final chapter on the subject. New areas will undoubtably be added as opportunities arise and imperiled landscapes are discovered. Consequently, this program is a "work in progress."

For now, we believe the following 8 landscapes are the best places for us to be working:

1.  Upper Missouri Coteau
2.  Milk River Basin
3.  Rocky Mountain Front
4.  Centennial Valley
5.  Big Hole River Watershed
6.  Blackfoot River Watershed
7.  Mission Valley
8.  Kootenai River Watershed

We also believe that our focus areas mesh well with those of our partners.