Ranchland Conservation

Some 40 million acres of Montana’s land base is under the stewardship of cattle ranchers. Much of this land provides critical winter range, birthing grounds and migration corridors for wildlife. To ensure the long term health of these resources, WSE informs ranchers about sustainable practices that enhance the productivity of the land and the quality of these habitats.

For 18 years, Western Sustainability Exchange has promoted sustainable agriculture. To date WSE has helped educate over 560 farmers and ranchers in sustainable practices. As a result, over 845,000 acres of agricultural land and open space are being managed sustainably today.

Through its Steer to Steak initiative, WSE seeks to increase our conservation of the Northern Rockies landscape. By developing customers for sustainable cattle producers who lack both the time and expertise to market a consumer-ready product, WSE preserves critical agricultural land and neighboring habitats in the region. WSE’s role as market facilitator ensures a fair and consistent sales premium for producers who meet our sustainable production criteria, thus providing economic incentives for sustainable stewardship and the preservation of our natural and cultural heritage.

WSE encourages the use of sustainable practices through financial rewards to farmers and ranchers who operate in a sustainable manner. We believe that if farms and ranches using sustainable practices thrive financially, the long-term results will be overwhelmingly positive:

  • The land stewarded by farmers and ranchers will continue to provide benefits to a diverse array of wild species and remain an important natural resource for generations to come
  • Working farms and ranches will maintain open space and avoid the habitat fragmentation common to rural development
  • Agriculture will continue to be a strong base for local and regional economic prosperity
  • Thriving family farms and ranches will increase opportunities for growing other local businesses
  • Local prosperity will attract the next generation to seek opportunities in their home towns, continuing the cycle of sustainable communities and the generational transfer of knowledge and work skills

Sustainable practices have been shown to improve productivity of rangelands, enhance the water capture and storage capacity of the soil, reduce erosion, and increase biodiversity of both plants and animals. And these practices often improve the quality of life for ranching families and result in better margins for their businesses.

Learn more about sustainable ranching practices here.