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A pronghorn ntelope stading in dry rangeland

Big Game Habitat Improvement RCPP Project

Apply by: October 6, 2023

Big Game Habitat Improvement is a Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project that addresses threats to big game migration corridors and winter ranges through outreach, technical assistance, and producer contracts.

This map shows the location of the project area in north central Montana

A group of thirteen partners will work with producers to improve grazing operations, restore grassland habitats, and retain intact rangelands. Additional benefits include improved grazing management, improved plant productivity and health, making grasslands more resilient to drought, and restoring marginal cropland to perennial grasses.

Project duration: 2021 - 2026.

See What's Being Done

Read one program participant's story in this Intermountain West Joint Venture article: Partners in North Central Montana Leverage RCPP for Conservation

Who Can Participate? 

Landowners in Blaine, Fergus, Garfield, Petroleum, and Phillips counties, as well as parts of Chouteau, Hill, and Valley counties.


  • Pheasants Forever, Inc. (lead partner)
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Winnett ACES
  • Soil & Water Conservation Districts of Montana
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Ranchers Stewardship Alliance
  • Ducks Unlimited
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
  • The Chippewa Cree Tribe of the Rocky Boy's Reservation
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Montana State University Extension

Eligible Land Uses

  • Cropland
  • Pasture
  • Range
  • Forest
  • Farmstead
  • Associated Agricultral Land

Eligible Conservation Practices

Priority Practices

645 Upland Wildlife Habitat Management
528 Prescribed Grazing
500 Obstruction Removal
382 Fence
649 Structures for Wildlife

Supporting Practices if necessary

  • 224 Aquifer Flow Test
  • 512 Forage and Biomass Planting
  • 550 Range Planting
  • 340 Cover Crop
  • 533 Pumping Plant
  • 516 Pipeline
  • 614 Watering Facility
  • 642 Water Well
  • 574 Spring Development

Detailed descriptions of these conservation practices can be found in the Field Office Technical Guide, Section 4 - Practice Standards and Supporting Documents.

When to Apply

Program applications are accepted on a continual basis. However, NRCS establishes application ranking dates for evaluation, ranking and approval of eligible applications. Applications received after the ranking date will be automatically deferred to the next funding period. See Montana Programs and Application Dates.

Local Ranking Questions

NRCS uses these questions to evaluate eligible applications for this project and to prioritize applications for potential funding.

  1. Is any portion of the application within the RCPP identified priority winter range area? Answer all that apply.
    • No
    • Yes, application falls within mule deer winter range
    • Yes, application falls within elk winter range
    • Yes, application falls within pronghorn winter range
  2. Does the application include 500 Obstruction Removal ‐ fence removal or 649 Structures for Wildlife‐ fence modification?
    • No
    • Yes
  3. Does the application include at least one planning land unit which is enrolled in an existing program that prevents the conversion of perennial grassland? Choose only the most protective one that exists in the application.
    • No, or less than 10 years of protection remaining from time of application
    • Yes, 10‐to less than 20 years protection remaining from time of application
    • Yes, 20 to less than 50 years protection remaining from time of application
    • Yes, Yes, 50 or more years protection remaining from time of application. This includes perpetual easements
  4. Are any of the tracts within the application directly adjacent to Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge (CMR NWR), MT Fish Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Management Area (MTFWP WMA), or US Fish and Wildlife Service Waterfowl Production Area (USFWS WPA)?
    • No
    • Yes
  5. Does the application include 528 Prescribed grazing? Select only the highest level of management that applies.
    • No
    • Yes, the application includes 528 prescribed grazing that includes the following scenario that addresses big game terrestrial habitat: Range Deferment
    • Yes, the application includes 528 Prescribed grazing that includes at least one of the following scenarios that will address Big Game Terrestrial Habitat: Habitat Management Standard and/or Habitat Management Rest Rotation
    • Yes, the application includes 528 prescribed grazing but does not include any of the above scenarios
  6. Does the application include 645 upland wildlife habitat management?
    • No
    • Yes
  7. Does the application include 550 Range Planting 550 or 512 Forage and Biomass Planting?
    • No
    • Yes, all plantings will be introduced species
    • Yes, at least one planning land unit will be planted to Native species

Ready to get started?

Contact your local service center to start your application.

Find Your Local Service Center

USDA Service Centers are locations where you can connect with Farm Service Agency, Natural Resources Conservation Service, or Rural Development employees for your business needs. Enter your state and county below to find your local service center and agency offices. If this locator does not work in your browser, please visit

How to Get Assistance

Do you farm or ranch and want to make improvements to the land that you own or lease?

Natural Resources Conservation Service offers technical and financial assistance to help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.

how to get started

To get started with NRCS, we recommend you stop by your local NRCS field office. We’ll discuss your vision for your land.

NRCS provides landowners with free technical assistance, or advice, for their land. Common technical assistance includes: resource assessment, practice design and resource monitoring. Your conservation planner will help you determine if financial assistance is right for you.

We’ll walk you through the application process. To get started on applying for financial assistance, we’ll work with you:

  • To fill out an AD 1026, which ensures a conservation plan is in place before lands with highly erodible soils are farmed. It also ensures that identified wetland areas are protected.
  • To meet other eligibility certifications.

Once complete, we’ll work with you on the application, or CPA 1200.

Applications for most programs are accepted on a continuous basis, but they’re considered for funding in different ranking periods. Be sure to ask your local NRCS district conservationist about the deadline for the ranking period to ensure you turn in your application in time.

As part of the application process, we’ll check to see if you are eligible. To do this, you’ll need to bring:

  • An official tax ID (Social Security number or an employer ID)
  • A property deed or lease agreement to show you have control of the property; and
  • A farm number.

If you don’t have a farm number, you can get one from USDA’s Farm Service Agency. Typically, the local FSA office is located in the same building as the local NRCS office. You only need a farm number if you’re interested in financial assistance.

NRCS will take a look at the applications and rank them according to local resource concerns, the amount of conservation benefits the work will provide and the needs of applicants. View Application Ranking Dates by State.

If you’re selected, you can choose whether to sign the contract for the work to be done.

Once you sign the contract, you’ll be provided standards and specifications for completing the practice or practices, and then you will have a specified amount of time to implement. Once the work is implemented and inspected, you’ll be paid the rate of compensation for the work if it meets NRCS standards and specifications.