Nonprofits Collaborate for Agricultural Grassbank Campus

Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA), a rancher-founded nonprofit based in Malta, MT, and Winnett ACES, a grassroots-led nonprofit in central Montana are jointly announcing a partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to create a potential “grassbank campus.” If realized, the campus would serve as a physical location for continuing agricultural education alongside the fostering of grazing solution development to the benefit of the local ranching community and in the interest of grassland conservation.

A groundbreaking demonstration in the power of collaboration and dedication to our region’s ranching and conservation future, TNC will purchase a property and gift it to either RSA or Winnett ACES to create the campus. The purpose of the campus will be to:

  • Establish a grassbank in which beginning ranchers and local ranches can take advantage of grazing opportunities with possible discounts.
  • Create a hands-on learning facility where ranch management and conservation practices are studied, piloted, and advanced.
  • Keep grasslands in agricultural production and under local control.
  • Be a catalyst in fostering hope and excitement for the future of ranching and grassland conservation in the Northern Great Plains.
  • Showcase innovation and creative management solutions to equip ranchers with tools helpful in sustaining their own ranches at a time in which regional land prices have outpaced the ability to pay for agricultural land by means of traditional ranching.
 

A location for the potential campus has not been identified. RSA, ACES, and TNC are working cooperatively in seeking a suitable ranch property. Scouting for this very specific property is not being taken lightly. It is of the utmost importance that the grassbank campus complements the region’s ranching culture, adding value for existing ranches and beginning ranchers. It is the intention of all involved to only consider properties after they have been made available to the ranching community for a reasonable amount of time.

“We are humbled and eager to use this opportunity to highlight the positive impact thoughtful ranching has on sustaining, restoring, and enhancing grassland habitat,” says RSA President Leo Barthelmess. “These big picture ideas give me hope.”

The gift comes as a testament to the power of collaboration in the preservation and responsible stewardship of our natural resources and local ranches. TNC’s contribution is, in part, made possible through a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grant.

“We view this partnership and the grassbank campus as an innovative solution to further support family ranches, which are vital for maintaining healthy and vibrant grasslands,” says Brian Martin, TNC’s Montana Grasslands Conservation Director.

Based upon the areas of service for both RSA and ACES, the potential property would be in north-central or central Montana. Areas of interest include Valley, Phillips, Blaine, Fergus, Petroleum, Garfield, and Musselshell counties.

Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is a rancher-led, grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for rural communities throughout the Northern Great Plains. Through collaborative conservation projects, rancher education events, and local community outreach, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance works to strengthen our rural community, economy, and culture for generations to come.

Winnett ACES began as a group of Winnett area producers joining together to address the most important issues facing their community: decreasing population, housing, childcare, business opportunities, access to health care, aging population, and struggle to engage with absentee landowners. Instead of resigning themselves to a bleak future where these problems persist, Winnett ACES chose to remedy these problems.   

The Nature Conservancy has been working to protect the lands and waters on which all life depends in Montana for more than 40 years.

Anne Johnson, DVM