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News Release

NRCS Awards $2.5 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants for Montana Projects

Lori Valadez

NRCS Awards $2.5 Million in Conservation Innovation Grants for Montana Projects

Bozeman, MT -- The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has awarded more than $2.5 in Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) to five entities for Montana projects that test and prove innovative approaches to conserving America’s private lands.

Recipients will demonstrate innovative approaches to improving soil health, increasing pollinator and wildlife habitat, addressing livestock manure management, producing on-farm energy savings and fostering water quality trading markets. Grant winners pay 50 percent of all project costs.

Awardees of Montana projects include the Cascade County Conservation District, Clark Fork Coalition, Rocky Mountain Front Weed Roundtable, Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory, and the Xerces Society, Inc. Project details are below:

  • Cascade County Conservation District - $1 million, Agricultural Application of an Innovative Mid-scale Wind Turbine Design. The goal of the project is to demonstrate the viability of an appropriately scaled, reliable, cost-effective and visually acceptable wind turbine. This will fill a largely vacant mid-size niche in the turbine market. This project is intended to demonstrate that an innovative, silo-shaped, reliable, and easily-maintained 100kW wind turbine, the Zilo®, can be installed, owned and operated on site while decreasing long-term costs, displacing the use of fossil fuels, blending into the landscape and giving operators a significant degree of control over their energy futures.
  • Clark Fork Coalition - $54,000, Evaluation of Watson Horizontal Flat-rate Fish Screen in Montana. The goal of the project is to evaluate, improve and promote a promising fish screen technology for small-scale irrigation diversions that is locally fabricated in Montana.
  • Rocky Mountain Front Weed Roundtable – $220,000, Implementation of a Cost-effective, Broad-scale, Integrated Weed Management Model. The project’s goal is to change weed management from less effective treatment of established weed patches to cost-effective, integrated weed management using all appropriate techniques. This will be carried out while maintaining or enhancing the ecological and economic health of the Rocky Mountain Front. This project will differ from traditional approaches by focusing on strategies that will maintain agricultural economic values by preventing expansion of weed populations, based on coordinated, strategic focus on the set of highest priority actions with positive economic returns. The project will employ integrated pest management (e.g., prevention, locally successful biological controls, spraying and pulling) to focus on the priority actions necessary to achieve broad-scale success across watersheds and provide a framework for long-term sustainability.
  • Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory - $257,000, Informing Habitat Enhancement and Fence-Marking Projects to Increase Greater Sage-grouse and Other Sagebrush Obligate Bird Populations. The project goal is to develop a decision support tool. Decision support systems are important tools in the adaptive management process due to the uncertain nature of managing natural resources. The tool will raise awareness for sagebrush obligate birds and determine most cost-effective fence markers.
  • The Xerces Society, Inc. - $998,000, Next Steps in Pollinator Conservation: Operations and Maintenance, Organic Habitat Restoration, Expanding Seed Mix Choices, and Assessing Conservation Effectiveness. This project proposes to develop a long-term operations and maintenance guidance for established habitats. This will advance the science of habitat restoration using organic technique, will increase the availability of high value plant materials and will assess the effectiveness of restoration for pollinator communities.

NRCS administers CIG as part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Grants are awarded to state and local governments, federally recognized Indian tribes, non-governmental organizations and individuals. NRCS uses CIG to invest in innovative, on-the-ground conservation technologies and approaches with the goal of wide-scale adoption to address water quality and quantity, air quality, energy conservation, and environmental markets, among other natural resource issues.

For a complete list of CIG awardees and more information about NRCS conservation programs online, visit:


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