Important Bird Areas

Glaciated Prairie Sage-steppe

Montana

The Glaciated Prairie Sage-steppe IBA encompasses an extensive expanse of largely unbroken sagebrush shrub-steppe and prairie grassland in north central Montana, bounded by the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge and the Milk River.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://mtaudubon.org/birds/documents/glaciatedprairie.web.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

The IBA encompasses an extensive region of largely unbroken sagebrush shrub-steppe and prairie grassland in north central Montana. The area supports the most significant population of Greater Sage-Grouse in the region, with more than 3,600 displaying males surveyed (16.7% of the males surveyed in the state), and includes at least 89 known lek sites (9.6% of the known lek sites in the state). It also includes wintering habitat for a remnant population segment of sage-grouse that breed in Saskatchewan, where the species is listed as endangered.

Conservation Issues

Much of the IBA is on federal lands managed for rangeland grazing. Grazing is not a major impact, as most areas are well-managed under rest-rotation systems and management,sustaining the sage-grouse populations. the primary threat in the area is agricultural conversion to dryland wheat, and tilling of pristine prairie lands that have never been cultivated. Ironically, the interest in organic crop production is placing greater pressure on converting native prairie to agriculture as these lands have never had chemical spray applications. The second most serious threat in the area is invasion of noxious weeds and subsequent alteration of the vegetation community and fire regimes. Potential for oil and gas development in the area is relatively low, but exploration and production could increase in the future.

Ownership

Landownership is primarily Bureau of Land Management and private agricultural lands, mixed with small amounts of state, other federal, and Nature Conservancy ownerships.

Habitat

The area is dominated by unbroken prairie grasslands and sagebrush shrub-steppe, mixed with upper Missouri River badlands, small areas of riparian habitats, and dryland agriculture.