Strengthening Collaborative Conservation for Working Ranch Lands, Water and Wildlife: A State Conservation Fund for Montana

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Currently, Montana does not have a state conservation fund (SCF), a funding mechanism designed to fund and strengthen collaborative conservation projects. Recent publications, including the State’s Comprehensive Fish & Wildlife Strategy suggest that strengthening collaborative conservation on private lands is essential to the survival of many imperiled species and communities. Recently, Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has shown greater interest in creating more voluntary, incentive-based programs to address non-game wildlife and habitat conservation on private lands.
In this research, I use qualitative market research to evaluate the feasibility of a state conservation trust for Montana using state conservation funds (SCF) from three other states (Nebraska, North Carolina and Wyoming) as exemplars. I interviewed 18 individuals, many of whom were involved in collaborative conservation. Interviewees had professional backgrounds in ranching, game and land conservation, state natural resource agencies, industry/agricultural trade associations and watershed committees. From this work, I suggest specific techniques to conserve and provide sustainability for working agricultural lands, to address water efficiency and to use voluntary measures to protect prioritized species and habitats.
I also conduct a comparative case study of the creation of North Carolina’s Clean Water Management Trust Fund to consider whether the origins of this Fund have implications for the creation of an SCF in Montana. However, I found that current conditions in Montana are not analogous to those in North Carolina. Problems such as wildfire and drought are serious but most respondents didn’t feel that these issues had reached a critical mass of statewide concern. Overall, there was a general consensus by interviewees on what needs a Montana SCF could address and how it should be governed and administered. However, these issues as well as identifying potential funding mechanisms will require more research and a strong coalition of interested parties.






Varley, Ian (2009). Strengthening Collaborative Conservation for Working Ranch Lands, Water and Wildlife: A State Conservation Fund for Montana. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.