The Montana Territorial Legislature established Chouteau County in February 1865 and the county seat of Fort Benton is the oldest inhabited town in the state. It is the ninth largest county in Montana, encompassing 3,936 square miles and is located in the north-central portion of the state about 100 miles from the Canadian border. The county is home to the Chippewa-Cree tribe on the Rocky Boys Indian reservation in the Bear’s Paw Mountains to the northeast and contains part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in the Highwood Mountains to the south. The primary surface water sources are the Missouri, Marias, and Teton Rivers. The population of Chouteau County is 5,738 and is classified as entirely rural.
The vast majority of land ownership in the county is private, about 81 percent. Dryland crop production is the leading land use in Chouteau County. Among Montana’s 56 counties Chouteau County is the leading producer of wheat. Secondary crops are oats, sunflower, safflower, and buckwheat. Livestock production in Chouteau County is also important, and barley for feed is a major crop. The NRCS office, located in Fort Benton, offers voluntary technical and financial assistance to private landowners interested in natural resource conservation based on a focused approach using long range planning with local input.
Current Financial Assistance Opportunities for Chouteau County Landowners
- Big Sandy Area Drought Resiliency Targeted Implementation Plan (TIP)
- Big Game Habitat Improvement RCPP Project (limited area)
In addition to these local projects, producers may also apply for statewide programs such as the Conservation Stewardship Program, national Environmental Quality Incentives Program initiatives, and conservation easement programs. For more information on these and other programs, see State Programs and Initiatives on the NRCS Montana webpage.