When Matt and Stacy Crabb got the opportunity to purchase more than 8,500 acres of ranchland on the edge of the Rocky Mountain Front, they worked with The Conservation Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy to come up with a plan that would allow them to establish their own ranching business on the land while protecting the property’s native prairie habitat. In late 2017, the Crabbs purchased the ranch and placed a conservation easement on the property, ensuring that it would be 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. In 2018, 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, enabling them to own the ranch while continuing to sustainably operate it.

“This is the perfect example of a conservation solution making economic sense. We’re grateful to the Crabbs for their holistic vision for the land that takes into account the critical and sensitive wildlife habitat on the Rocky Mountain Front.”

Gates Watson, Montana and Northwest Director for The Conservation Fund

Why This Project Matters

The plan is a win-win: The Crabbs have a chance to continue their ranching legacy on the land, and the conservation easement protects the property from the threat of development. Large working ranches like the Crabbs’ provide critical fish and wildlife habitat in the Rocky Mountain Front, a wildlife-rich region of Montana where the slopes of the Rocky Mountains meet vast prairies. The region is home to grizzly bears, trumpeter swans, long-billed curlews and numerous other species of grassland birds. Protecting these lands through conservation easements helps ensure that this iconic landscape is preserved, while ranchers and others who depend on the land for their livelihoods are able to continue pursuing their life’s work. To learn more about our work protecting working lands, click here.

“For us, placing a conservation easement on this ranchland was critical. We wanted to be able to expand our business while ensuring that the land will be protected for generations to come. We’re so glad that, with help from The Conservation Fund and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, we were able to do just that.”

Montana Rancher Stacy Crabb




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