Important Bird Areas

Mussellshell Sage-steppe

Montana

This large IBA covers an extensive expanse of sagebrush shrub-steppe and native prairie habitat on the western edge of the Great Plains. It supports a significant population of Greater Sage-Grouse in central Montana.

{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://www.audubon.org/bird/iba/usibac/2008_P7/MT3303m_Mussellshell08.pdf}

Conservation Issues

The primary threat in the region is the loss of sagebrush habitat to conversion to agriculture. As grain prices rise, tens of thousands of acres are being placed under cultivation. There is an escalating cycle of intensifying agriculture: grain fields are being placed into CRP and adjacent prairie lands broken and placed into small grain cultivation. The net result is a decline in native shrub-steppe habitats. Energy development in the area has been static, although there is currently some oil production. There are new leases for exploration, and energy development could intensify in the future.

Ownership

Landownership is primarily private agricultural lands and federal Bureau of Land Management lands mixed with some state ownership.

Habitat

The area is dominated by prairie grassland and sagebrush shrub-steppe, mixed with small amounts of shrub and woodland riparian habitats, agricultural lands and upland forests.