Mountain-Prairie Region  Partners for Fish & Wildlife
Upper Missouri Coteau
Conservation Strategies


Threats within the Upper Missouri Coteau Focus Area are generally related to agriculture. Wetland drainage, prairie conversion, encroachment of non-native grass species into native prairie, invasive species, erosion, wetland sedimentation, and degraded water quality from nutrients and pesticides are all problems. Any slowdown in the livestock industry will force landowners to convert more native grassland to cropland.

Oil and gas development is another concern. Spills, leaks, saltwater contamination, and habitat loss from pipelines and roads are adversely impacting wetlands and uplands.

Conservation Strategies

Cattle and waterfowl  on a restored wetland photoHabitat work will continue to emphasize wetland creation and restoration work, perpetual wetland and grassland easements, and grazing systems. Additional opportunities for habitat work are becoming available through new Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) enrollments. Unlike prior enrollments, recent sign-ups emphasize wildlife habitat restoration and enhancement. Landowners now have a strong incentive to use the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, or other tools, to increase their Environmental Benefit Index Scores.

Portions of the Focus Area have abundant nesting cover in the form of CRP or native rangelands, but lack wetlands. Depending on topography and soil conditions, there is potential for creating shallow impoundments as well as restoring drained wetlands. Artificial wetlands are generally constructed in drainages with very gradual slopes to provide shallow wetland habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl. In some areas, reservoir complexes have been constructed that have many of the productive characteristics of natural wetland complexes. Establishing additional wetland habitat has been a key objective of the Northeast Montana Prairie Pothole Joint Venture Project.

The average cost for wetland restoration is $150 per acre. Upland enhancements cost approximately $10 per acre to complete.

Partners biologists talking to a landowner beside his wetlandSecuring perpetual conservation easements is another key component of our conservation strategy in the Upper Missouri Coteau. Easements are strictly voluntary, and the land remains in private ownership. Haying and grazing is allowed but grasslands cannot be broken. Wetlands cannot be drained, filled, or burned. We believe that easements are a powerful tool that compliment Medicine Lake’s Wetland Management District and prevent additional habitat fragmentation on private land.

Future Needs

  • Approximately 15,000 acres of wetlands could be restored or established on private or tribal lands.
  • Approximately 300,000 acres of grasslands could be restored or enhanced within this Focus Area on private and tribal lands.
  • Strengthen our working relationship with Fort Peck Tribes with a focus on easements and the Manning Lake wetland-native prairie complex.