The goal of the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council is to provide leadership, assistance, and guidance to conservation districts along the Missouri River Corridor. To accomplish this goal, the MRCDC engages in numerous projects to directly improve natural resources and to involve and educate the public about the Missouri River corridor.
Ranching for Rivers – The purpose of this voluntary program is to provide interested landowners a cost-share to install fences and water development that better enables them to manage their riparian areas to meet the unique needs of that plant community, while also increasing management flexibility on associated uplands. The fences are not intended to create riparian exclosures, rather the program encourages the creation of riparian pastures that can still be grazed according to the landowners goals for livestock and natural resources. The cost-share covers up to 50% of the cost of fence construction or off-site water development and can be paired with other funding sources to further reduce the out-of-pocket cost to landowners. The program allows flexibility for managers to implement grazing practices that complement their natural resource goals, and to install the type of fencing that best fits their landscape and livestock management goals. Photo monitoring is conducted to help demonstrate the value of the projects and their benefit to the riparian resources.
Current Status: SWCDM has helped us secure 2 grants thus far: 1 that is funding an outreach effort to promote the program to landowners, and also promote the conservation benefits voluntarily provided by these land stewards. A total of 5 projects received cost share funding from a pilot-project conducted by MRCDC and SWCDM in 2016. Projects were located in Cascade, Phillips, Broadwater, and Richland Counties. Landowners voluntarily entered the program with a variety of natural resource goals ranging from reducing bank sloughing and sedimentation to protecting cottonwood saplings.
Montana Rangelands Partnership – The Montana Rangelands Partnership is a statewide, public-private, collaborative partnership comprised of more than a dozen local, state and national organizations including Montana State University Extension Range Management, the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC), the Montana Governor’s Rangeland Resources Executive Committee (RREC), the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council (MRCDC), and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana (SWCDM). The mission of the Montana Rangelands Partnership is to further the health and sustainable use of Montana’s rangeland ecosystems. The Montana Rangelands Partnership currently coordinates four main programs: 1) Rangeland monitoring technical assistance; 2) Montana Rangeland Monitoring Program; 3) Certification of grazing management plans and Certified Grazing Land Stewards; and 4) Education. The purpose of the Range Technician Program is to help ranchers and other landowners to: 1) initiate and sustain rangeland monitoring, 2) develop certified grazing management plans, and 3) identify appropriate voluntary conservation programs that are available to help ranchers and other landowners sustain and enhance their rangeland management efforts. Learn more about the program through this FAQ document.
Current Status: Secured a grant through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to fund 2 full-time technicians for 3 years. These technicians have been hired and are currently working with landowners to initiate monitoring on their ranches. The technicians are also seeking willing conservation districts to host monitoring workshops within the next 3 years. The technicians will conclude the technical assistance program by September 2019.
CMR Community Working Group – increase the input and involvement of CDs in the management of federally owned land and help coordinate that management across federal, state and private lands. MRCDC maintains their role as the coordinating entity of the CMR Community Working Group and conservation district involvement continues to expand. This committee has expanded past the CMR region and is working to maintain landowner involvement in the many landscape conservation initiatives that have been started in that region.
SG Subcommittee: working on a Conservation Menu to empower landowners to make more informed land management decisions. The Committee is also working to connect MSGOT and the Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Improvement Program with local landowners and identify socio-economic issues that impact species within the sagebrush ecosystem of Montana.
USFWS Relations: group of CD supervisors (MRCDC Council members) and County Commissioners traveled to Denver to meet with the Regional Director and Deputy Director, as well as the Deputy and Regional Director for Refuges. Discussion topics on landscape issues facing that region of Montana were well received, and the Director, (Noreen Walsh) subsequently attended the April 2016 CMR CWG meeting in Winnett in person.
Current Status: Secured a grant through the Montana Watershed Coordination Council to fund facilitation fees, meeting expenses, and printing of the Conservation Menu. The print version of the Conservation Menu is anticipated in July of 2016, with the web-based version following soon after.
Montana Saltcedar Team – goal is to build a comprehensive saltcedar management strategy by involving all relevant land management agencies, private landowners, and weed control professionals. The Team identifies priority areas for control, supports funding acquisition, and promotes the coordinated management of weeds.
Current Status: We have completed the GIS database of current saltcedar infestations in Montana along with development of a simple process to use smart phones to capture and send infestation information to the database. Rachel presented the database and the Seven Blackfoot treatment to the Montana Weed Control Association in January, the Tamarisk Coalition in February, and the Montana Invasive Species Summit in April. Supporting the collection and rearing of the saltcedar biological control beetle in Montana.
CREP Revision – the goal is to have recommended changes made to the CREP program that increases landowner acceptance and enrollment.
Current Status: Coordinating a document with proposed changes with all Montana CREP partners.
Cottonwood Regeneration – cooperating with the Missouri Breaks Riparian Group to promote cottonwood regeneration on the Missouri River within the Missouri Breaks Monument through grazing management and augmented plantings.
Current Status: Hosted the 2016 River Rendezvous to view fencing projects and potential planting sites within Chouteau County.