U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Division of Refuge Planning
Mountain-Prairie Region

Completed Plan Contacts

The Service completed the establishment plan in 2005 and
an expansion plan in 2010.


EMAIL

bentonlake@fws.gov


ADDRESS

Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area
c/o Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex
922 Bootlegger Trail
Great Falls, Montana 59404


TELEPHONE

406 / 727 7400


WEB SITE

www.fws.gov/refuge/benton_lake_wmd

 

Land Protection Plan


Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area

Montana

Description

The Rocky Mountain Front Conservation Area is along the eastern edge of the Continental Divide in northwestern Montana. The conservation area is part of a landscape conservation strategy to protect a unique, highly diverse, and mostly unfragmented ecosystem. This project helps protect the Front from drastic change caused by widespread, unplanned residential or commercial development. 

  • Established in 2005 and expanded in 2010.
  • Comprises a 918,000-acre area, within which the Service will acquire conservation easements on up to 295,000 acres of private land.
  • Centered 65 miles northwest of Great Falls, Montana, in Lewis and Clark, Pondera, and Teton Counties.

Outside of Alaska, the Rocky Mountain Front is one of the last truly wild places in North America—virtually every wildlife species found here on the arrival of Lewis and Clark in 1806, with the exception of free-ranging bison, remains today. In addition, it is the only area in the continental United States with a complete group of carnivorous mammals including grizzly bear, gray wolf, wolverine, American marten, and Canada lynx.

The Front is at the massive intersection of the western edge of the northern Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. The mix of prairie, forest, and alpine tundra creates a high diversity of plants and animals. Seventeen species of waterfowl breed in the area including trumpeter swan. At least 21 species of raptors breed along the Front. In addition, the area provides essential habitat for grassland birds such as burrowing owl and long-billed curlew. In 1999, Arctic grayling was reintroduced above Gibson Dam and in several tributaries.

The land protection plan sets the following guidance:

  • Base acquisition priorities for conservation easements on the threat of development, connectivity to other protected lands, and quality of habitat for trust species such as grizzly bear.
  • Acquire conservation easements from willing sellers only; use no fee-title acquisition.
Image of the plan cover.

 

  • Closely cooperate with partners to ensure successful protection of wildlife habitat and natural resources.
  • Manage the easement program as part of the Benton Lake Wetland Management District, administered by the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

The Service uses conservation easements to help maintain large, unfragmented blocks of habitat between existing protected areas such as State wildlife areas and The Nature Conservancy’s Pine Butte Swamp Preserve.

Easement contracts specify perpetual protection of habitat for trust species and limits on residential, industrial, and commercial development. Contracts prohibit alteration of the natural topography, conversion of native grassland to cropland, drainage of wetland, and establishment of game farms.

Easement land remains in private ownership. Therefore, property tax and invasive plant control remain the responsibility of the landowner, who also retains control of public access to the land. Contracts do not restrict grazing on easement land.

You can find more information about the conservation area under comprehensive conservation planning for the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Documents

Expansion land protection plan (LPP)
Expansion LPP 2010 (10 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Contents (PDF)
Chapter 1, Introduction and Project Description (3 MB PDF)
Chapter 2, Area Description and Resources (1 MB PDF)
Chapter 3, Threats to and Status of Resources (1 MB PDF)
Chapter 4, Project Implementation (3 MB PDF)
Appendixes (5 MB PDF)

Expansion environmental assessment (EA)
Expansion EA 2010 (8 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Contents (PDF)
Chapter 1, Purpose of and Need for Action (3 MB PDF)
Chapter 2, Alternatives (PDF)
Chapter 3, Affected Environment (1 MB PDF)
Chapter 4, Environmental Consequences (1 MB PDF)
Chapter 5, Coordination and Environmental Review (PDF)
Appendixes (5 MB PDF)

Draft expansion EA and LPP
Draft expansion EA and LPP 2010 (12 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
Contents (PDF)
Chapter 1, Purpose of and Need for Action (3 MB PDF)
Chapter 2, Alternatives (1 MB PDF)
Chapter 3, Affected Environment (2 MB PDF)
Chapter 4, Environmental Consequences (1 MB PDF)
Chapter 5, Coordination and Environmental Review (2 MB PDF)
Chapter 6, Draft Land Protection Plan (3 MB PDF)
Appendixes (PDF)

Establishment EA and LPP
Establishment EA and LPP 2005 (2 MB PDF)

By section, for faster download:
EA (1 MB PDF)
LPP (1 MB PDF)

Planning process documents
Fact sheet 2 2010 (2 MB PDF)
Fact sheet 1
2010 (1 MB PDF)