Montana Conservation Corps youth crew in yellow hardhats conducting weed control in riparian zone.  NBR/USFWS photo

To fulfill its mission to conserve wildlife, plants and habitat, the National Wildlife Refuge System is committed to building partnerships which encourage conservation and preservation of our natural and cultural resources. Scientifically-informed and technologically-based stewardship of our public lands, waters, wildlife and special places must be collaborative efforts between the Refuge System, state and tribal government agencies, conservation groups, and private individuals if conservation efforts are to succeed.

Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (Partners Program) provides technical and financial assistance to private landowners and Tribes who are willing to work with the Service and other partners on a voluntary basis to help meet the habitat needs of our Federal Trust Species. It is estimated that 73% of our Nation’s land is privately owned and that the majority of our fish and wildlife resources occur on those lands. Because the habitat needs of all Trust Species cannot be met solely on public lands, public funds are also expended on private lands to accomplish habitat improvements through cooperative conservation programs such as the Partners Program. 

The Partners Program can assist with projects in all habitat types which conserve or restore native vegetation, hydrology, and soils associated with imperiled ecosystem. Locally-based field biologists work one-on-one with private landowners and other partners to plan, implement, and monitor their projects. Partners Program field staff help landowners find other sources of funding and help them through the permitting process, as necessary. This level of personal attention and follow-through is a significant strength of the Program that has led to national recognition and wide support. 

To find out more, follow the links to the Partners Program or to the appropriate contacts.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

The National Bison Range lies within the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation, the permanent homeland of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), and, as such, the Service works closely with the CSKT on numerous projects. The CSKT Fire Management program assists with wildfire suppression on Service lands, providing personnel and equipment. This program has also helped with prescription burns to maintain a natural landscape and reduce fuels and weeds. 

The CSKT has successfully introduced Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinators) into the Mission Valley in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and other entities. Starting in 1996, the swans have established themselves and breed yearly. Read about the details of the early success at this link

Pursuant to the 1994 Tribal Self-Governance Act, The US Fish and Wildlife Service has negotiated, entered into and concluded Annual Funding Agreements with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. These partnerships between the Service and CSKT are government-to-government relationships and provide for the Tribes to have a substantive role in mission-critical programs at the Bison Range, which remains a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  

Montana Conservation Corps

To encourage service and stewardship of young people, the National Bison Range partners with the Montana Conservation Corps (MCC), a nonprofit organization that empowers youth and young adults through hands-on conservation service and education. MCC uses the Refuge as a training ground as well as helping the Refuge with conservation projects, such as non-native invasive plant control. 

The MCC mission is to inspire young people through hands-on conservation service to be leaders, stewards of the land, and engaged citizens who improve their communities, is brought to life through their five core program objectives. MCC’s goal is that each participant will leave with the following:

  1. An ethic of volunteer service and civic responsibility
  2. Strengthened communication and team-building skills
  3. Enhanced competencies to be leaders and contributing team members
  4. Increased knowledge of the natural environment
  5. An enthusiasm for the benefits of hard work and quality results 

Cooperative Agriculture

The Northwest Montana Wetland Management District was established in the 1970's and encompasses nine Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA's) supporting more than 3,000 acres on wetland and grassland habitat.  These WPA's are managed to provide nesting, breeding, feeding and resting areas for grassland and wetland migratory birds.  An important tool to maintain quality habitat is the use of grazing to increase grassland vigor and reduce invasive species.

Cooperative agricultural opportunities for grazing and habitat restoration efforts on the Wetland Management District are available periodically.  Individuals interested in potential cooperative agricultural opportunities should contact the National Bison Range Project Leader directly at 406 644-2211.