April 22, 2019|By Gates Watson| Land

One Aspiring Family + A 9,000-acre Montana Ranch = A Conservation Success Story That Will Last for Generations

4 22 19 Crabb Ranch c Sprout Films201812132 Photo by Sprout Films.

This past year we helped change this scenario for Matt and Stacy Crabb when we worked with them to protect and own the ranch they were managing.

“Matt and I always dreamed of owning a ranch of our own, but we never thought it was a reality. There aren’t too many young families who can get into ranching if they're not raised that way or don’t have it passed on to them because land is so expensive, and it's also expensive to get operations going. It's great that we were able to do this and have something to pass on to our kids,” says Stacy Crabb.

4 22 19 Crabb Ranch MT c Sprout Films201902118 18Photo by Sprout Films.

4 22 19 Crabb Ranch c Sprout Films201812137 Photo by Sprout Films.

The Conservation Fund helped by providing temporary bridge financing, enabling the Crabbs to purchase the ranch, and placed a conservation easement on the property. This ensured it would be forever protected from development.

We temporarily held the easement until federal funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which uses proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties to protect the country’s natural resources, was made available. Once LWCF funding was in hand, we transferred the easement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who will manage it in perpetuity. The easement option was a viable one for Crabbs because it lowered their purchase cost and allowed them to own the ranch while continuing to sustainably operate it.

4 22 19 Crabb Ranch c Sprout Films201812135 1Photo by Sprout Films.

Protecting these lands through conservation easements helps ensure that this iconic American landscape is preserved. Ranchers and others who depend on the land for their livelihoods are able to continue pursuing their life’s work while the species that depend on these large, unbroken stretches of habitat can thrive—a true win-win.

To date, our Rocky Mountain Front Initiative has protected over 140,000 acres of critical migratory corridors for a wide variety of species that depend on the Front’s rich ecosystem. We know that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense for the people who live in the area. By working with ranchers, we’ve found successful way to help residents and wildlife live together peacefully on the Front.

Learn more about the Crabb family and their newly-owned ranch on our recently released documentary:


Written By

Gates Watson

Gates Watson is the Fund's Montana and Northwest Director. He has been with the Fund since 2001, during which time he's led the protection of over 100,000 acres of land across Montana. He currently chairs The Conservation Fund’s Land Conservation Loan Committee.