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Western meadowlark sings from a brush top in grassland.

Northern Great Plains Grassland Conservation RCPP Project

Apply by: October 27, 2023

This Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) project in southeastern Montana will focus on preserving intact grassland habitats and enhancing degraded habitats, particularly in areas that support declining grassland birds, waterfowl, and upland game birds.

This partnership of bird-focused organizations (including American Bird Conservancy, Montana Audubon and the Northern Great Plains Joint Venture) will focus on restoring marginal cropland and unproductive monocultures to higher quality forage, and on developing grazing infrastructure on grasslands recently restored or at risk of conversion.

Map showing location of Northern Great Plains Grassland Conservation RCPP Project in Southeastern Montana

Who Can Participate?

Landowners in Big Horn, Carter, Custer, Fallon, Powder River, Prairie, Rosebud, Treasure, and Yellowstone Counties.

Benefits to the Land

  • Increased forage availability and quality for sustainable livestock production.
  • Improved habitat availability and connectivity between existing grasslands.
  • 12,000 acres of grasslands restored and/or protected.

Project Partners

  • Pheasants Forever (lead partner)
  • American Bird Conservancy
  • Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana
  • Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation
  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Northern Great Plains Joint Venture
  • Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks
  • Montana Audubon

Eligible Land Uses

Cropland is the only eligible land use.

Eligible Conservation Practices

  • 315 Herbaceous Weed Control
  • 340 Cover Crop
  • 512 Forage Biomass Planting
  • 550 Range Planting
  • 645 Upland Wildlife Habitat Management 

Detailed descriptions of these conservation practices can be found in the Field Office Technical Guide.

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.

At least 51 percent of the acres in the application must be within the Northern Great Plains Project Area.

  1. Does the project propose to improve wildlife habitat specifically for grasslands or grassland nesting birds, as demonstrated by expected increases in appropriate Wildlife Habitat Evaluation Guide (WHEG)?
    • No
    • Up to 0.2 increase
    • More than 0.2 increase
  2. How many total priority bird species have been demonstrated to occupy the planning land units within the application (as indicated by the “Priority Bird Areas” map developed for this RCPP):
    • 0 species
    • 1 species
    • 2 species
    • 3 species
    • 4 or more species
  3. Does the application include CPS 645 (Upland Wildlife Habitat Management)
    • No
    • Yes
  4. Does this application include the conversion of at least one planning land unit (PLU) from annually planted cropland to grazed perennial vegetation?
    • No, application does not include a perennial planting on an entire annually planted cropland PLU or the planting will not be grazed
    • Yes, the application does include converting an annually planted cropland PLU to perennial vegetation that will be grazed
  5. Does the application include 550 Range Planting with at least 3 grass species and 1 forb in seed mix?
    • No
    • Yes


For more information or to apply, visit your local USDA service center or Gallatin Valley Land Trust (GVLT).

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.