About Us

rsa-group

The Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA) strives to feed the world, preserve our prairie neighborhood, and nurture the next generation.  We believe this is conservation done right.

The Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. We are headquartered in north-central Montana. Planning for our organization began in 2003 when a group of 30 ranch families came together to resolve common problems. Our rancher-led conservation organization works to continually strengthen our rural community, economy and culture. We do this through wise stewardship of the prairies that are the foundation of our way of life. Our multi-generational ranch families run livestock operations across a million acres of intermingled private, public and tribal lands.

For the last hundred years the primary human use of northern prairies is livestock production. Harsh weather, economic upheavals and many societal changes caused our county population to drop from nearly 20,000 in the 1930’s down to around 4,000 today. The Dustbowl Days brought unintentional devastation of prairie plants and wildlife by people not familiar with climate and soil challenges of this landscape. Most homesteaders left. Ranchers who remained have a bone-deep understanding and love of the land that can come only after three to five generations dedicated to caring for the same place.

Visitors to our area may find it hard to believe that the beauty here is not a pristine prairie remnant that somehow escaped the hand of man. Instead, this vibrant grassland was restored to health and diversity by the skilled management of ranchers in partnership with agencies, universities and others.  Temperate grasslands are among the most imperiled of ecosystems worldwide. However, ours is a three million acre landscape that hosts the most intact assemblage of prairie fauna in North America. Pronghorn, elk, deer, prairie dogs, Burrowing Owls, Sage-Grouse, Long Billed Curlews, Sprague’s Pipits, and a dozen other grassland bird species that occur nowhere else on Earth, in such numbers, are among the diversity of life thriving here.

Through the formation of RSA, ranchers now engage directly with professional conservationists to identify ways that conservation and ranching can provide mutual support. International environmental groups proclaim this the last, best, northern mixed-grass prairie, which is testament to the successful conservation practices of ranchers who restored the land after the Dustbowl Days. Our actions to enhance the success of ranches and rural communities are key to the lasting conservation of prairie wildlife and working wildlands. RSA has posted significant accomplishments in:

  • Engaging in collaborative conservation and community building.
  • Encouraging ranching and other traditional livelihoods to sustain our native grasslands and rural communities for generations to come.
  • Collecting, implementing and disseminating accurate information on the ecology and sustainable management of the northern grasslands

Management practices that the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance has implemented include:

  1. Prescribed grazing plans with integrated stockwater systems.
  2. Wildlife-friendly fencing.
  3. Installation of wildlife escape ramps in water troughs.
  4. Placing visibility-enhancing markers on fences to reduce bird collisions.
  5. Replanting cropland to native vegetation.
  6. Weed control and prevention which keeps our county 99% weed free.

RSA’s land stewardship reflects the best knowledge our local ranchers have gained through generations of shared knowledge. We employ collaboration, education, innovation and sound science to conserve and enhance the natural resources and pastoral heritage of the northern Great Plains.

Our Mission

The mission of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is to promote the ecological, social and economic conditions that will sustain the biodiversity and integrity of America’s northern mixed-grass prairie for present and future generations.

How Can You Help?

“Ranching, Conservation, Communities – a Winning Team!”

Wildlife and cows thrive together!

Wildlife and cows thrive together!

RSA supports wildlife research projects, in this case pronghorn migration using cameras! Photo © Bebe Crouse

RSA supports wildlife research projects, in this case pronghorn migration using cameras! Photo © Bebe Crouse

Mission Statement

The mission of the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is to promote the ecological, social and economic conditions that will sustain the biodiversity and integrity of America’s northern mixed-grass prairie for present and future generations.

We support cost-effective, sustainable conservation that features private and public cooperation in a working landscape stewarded by profitable family ranches and thriving rural communities. We employ collaboration, education, innovation and sound science to conserve and enhance the natural resources and pastoral heritage of the northern Great Plains.

Compared to the rest of the lower US, the vast prairies of northern Montana have been little changed over the last millennium. Much as chronicled by Lewis and Clark 200 years ago, this immensity of grass and sky is a stronghold for pronghorn, mule deer, elk, prairie dogs, burrowing owls, ferruginous hawks, mountain plovers and a dozen more grassland bird species that are disappearing elsewhere.

And so we make wise use of the pivot point where we now stand. Encouraged by exciting accomplishments of partnerships like the Malpai Borderlands Group, the Sandhills Task Force and the Blackfoot Challenge, our community is pioneering unlikely alliances to maintain our ranching heritage while building synergistic solutions for prairie conservation. We seek ways to turn the table so that conservation becomes an economic engine for agriculture, and we imagine future generations wondering, “Did ranchers save the prairie birds, or did birds save the prairie ranchers?”

For over a hundred years, ranching has been the foundation of our local economy, culture and conservation. Today, third, fourth and fifth generation ranchers care for the land with ethics and skills that would delight Aldo Leopold.

In 2003, about 30 ranching families in northern Montana came together to resolve problems they faced. Since then, the group – the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA) – has improved communication and relationships with government agencies and conservation groups while protecting ranching traditions.

While we are still working to craft lasting solutions, this website shares with you how our community is building a beautiful future we previously only hoped could be true. We invite you to ride along with us for the journey.