When Matt Crabb talks about the ranch he and his wife, Stacy, purchased along the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana, he gets choked up. The Crabbs dreamed of someday owning the ranch they had been managing for 11 years so that one day they could pass it down to their children to carry on their ranching heritage. But in this area, land carries a high price tag, making it difficult for younger ranchers without inherited land to start their own operations.

The Conservation Fund was able to step in quickly and acquire an easement on a temporary basis for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The easement helped reduce the purchase price and permanently protect the ranch’s native prairie habitat. The reduced purchase price made it possible for the Crabbs to buy the ranch from the previous owner. Once the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service received the funding from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it took ownership of the conservation easement and the Fund recovered all of its capital.

“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


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