Wilsall, Mont. — The National Audubon Society has partnered with Montana Audubon to award its bird-friendly habitat certification to North Bridger Bison. Founded, owned, and operated by Matt and Sarah Skoglund, North Bridger Bison is the first bison ranch in Montana to earn the Audubon Certified bird-friendly designation. With this, North Bridger Bison can use the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal, a product label that lets consumers know that these products come from bison that grazed on ranches managed for birds and biodiversity.
The certification is earned through Audubon Conservation Ranching, Audubon’s flagship grassland habitat initiative, which is a collaborative effort between ranchers and Audubon to address the decline of grassland bird populations. Over 100 ranches, encompassing nearly 3 million acres, have earned Audubon Certified status nationwide. This includes 16 ranches and about 140,000 acres in Montana. The land certification distinguishes wildlife-focused grassland management and recognizes rotational bison or cattle grazing that creates a mosaic of habitat for grassland birds.
In Big Sky country, Audubon partners with Montana Audubon on Conservation Ranching. The independent organization takes the lead in working with Montana ranchers on all aspects of the program, including enrollment, habitat projects, and bird and environmental monitoring.
Matt and Sarah Skoglund started North Bridger Bison in 2018. Instituting intensive, rotational grazing with their bison herd, their number one goal is to increase the health of the land each year. “The bison on our ranch help build soil, improve the quality of the soil, increase the amount of water retained in the ground, increase the amount and diversity of the grasses, forbs, and wildflowers on the landscape – which helps birds, wildlife, and our bison – and helps reduce climate change through carbon storage in the soil,” Matt Skoglund said. In 2022, the Skoglunds put the ranch into a conservation easement with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, which protects the ranch from development forever.
Christian Meny, Director of Conservation and head of the Conservation Ranching program for Montana Audubon, says the formula of rotational grazing works because it’s modeled on how native bison herds once roamed and foraged. “It’s like quilting, but with the land,” Meny says. “We want to stitch together areas that have been freshly grazed, areas that were grazed a month ago, and areas that haven’t been grazed all year. With this patchwork of habitat, we can benefit the biggest array of grassland bird species and other wildlife.”
Meny says that at North Bridger Bison, the uplands provide habitat for dry country songbirds like Vesper Sparrows and Western Meadowlarks; upland gamebirds including Greater Sage-Grouse and Sharp-tailed Grouse; and raptors like Prairie Falcons and American Kestrel. Shorebirds like Long-billed Curlews and Upland Sandpipers are other species dependent on these grassland areas in addition to the 55 acres of wetland habitat on the ranch.
About Audubon Conservation Ranching
A wildlife habitat initiative of the National Audubon Society with a unique market front, Audubon Conservation Ranching aims to stabilize declining grassland bird populations in partnership with ranchers – on whose land 95 percent of grassland birds live. Audubon Conservation Ranching’s enrollment includes over 100 ranches and nearly 3 million acres that have earned status as Audubon Certified bird-friendly land. Incentivizing this habitat work for birds and biodiversity are consumers with an appetite for conservation, who support it with the purchase of products grazed on these lands. Shoppers see a special package designation – the Audubon Certified bird-friendly seal – that sets these products apart. For more information, visit www.audubon.org/ranching.
About Montana Audubon
Founded in 1976, Montana Audubon is an independent, statewide conservation organization whose mission is to promote appreciation, knowledge, and conservation of Montana’s native birds, other wildlife, and natural ecosystems and to safeguard biological diversity for current and future generations. We seek to create an environment in which all of Montana’s native bird species have healthy, sustainable populations, ensured by long-term habitat security. Montana Audubon uses science, conservation education, and engages in public policy work to protect our state’s incomparable wildlife and landscapes. Learn more at www.mtaudubon.org and follow us on social media @montanaaudubon.