Ranching for Rivers

Ranching for Rivers is a new approach to managing livestock within riparian areas.
This program promotes the use of “riparian pastures” as an alternative to complete exclusion of the riparian area to livestock, for improvement of fisheries habitat, in-stream flows, and establishment of cottonwoods, willows, and other woody riparian species. A riparian pasture is a relatively small pasture that can still be grazed for a portion of the year. Benefits of riparian pastures include improved management flexibility, the ability to use livestock grazing to manage weeds and overgrown vegetation, improved access for wildlife to stream areas, and less maintenance costs of fencing and off-stream water resources.

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About the Program

How It Works

Ranching for Rivers is a cost-share program designed to provide landowners with the needed resources to voluntarily construct fences and/or other infrastructure (crossings, water gaps, offsite water, etc.) that will enable them to better manage the riparian resources on their land. The cost-share can cover up to 50% of the cost of fence, other riparian pasture-related infrastructure, and construction costs. These funds can be paired with other funding sources to further reduce the out-of-pocket cost to landowners, and be utilized by landowners that may not financially qualify for other assistance.

Current Funding

Ranching for Rivers 2017 Solicitation

Ranching for Rivers 2017 Application

The current round of funding is open. The first round of application reviews will begin April 10, 2017 and continue until all funds have been disbursed. Get your application in early to be considered!

Program Experience and Past Success:

In Spring 2016, Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana and the Missouri River Conservation District Council partnered on a pilot program that provided $36,000 (total) in cost-share for landowners to construct riparian pastures to benefit their operation and its natural resources.

Five projects were funded through this pilot program, which together resulted in over 8 miles of riparian pasture/fencing projects on the Missouri and Milk Rivers in Cascade, Phillips, Broadwater, and Richland counties. Photo monitoring was established at each project site to track riparian recovery and we will be following up with landowners in 2017 and 2018 on project outcomes.


Landowner Guide to Wildlife Friendly Fences


Benefits of Managed Riparian Pasture

Fisheries Improvement
In-Stream Flows
Cottonwood Establishment

2016 Pilot Program Figures

Landowners Helped
Total 2016 Cost Share
Miles of Fence Installed

Success Story: Iversens


One couple that participated in the 2016 pilot project was Dick and Connie Iversen, Richland County ranchers near Culbertson.

When the floods of 2011 hit the Iversen’s place on the Missouri River, they lost a lot of land to either erosion or sand deposition. But they noticed two things after the floods: first, the banks with trees fared much better and had less erosion than the banks without trees; and, second, the areas that flooded the worst were sprouting up a lot of new cottonwood seedlings. Dick estimates that there are over 200 acres of new cottonwoods that he is now trying to manage.

To protect both his streambanks and these cottonwood regeneration areas, Dick decided to install new fences (and replace those lost) along the river pastures in order to better control grazing in his riparian areas. In some places, the fences are to keep cattle out of regeneration areas, and in others he will control grazing to manage for balanced regeneration. Dick also installed a water tank to help manage river access in these pasture areas.

In all, the Iversens have three to four miles of river frontage where grazing will be managed through riparian pastures. The entire project cost the Iversens upwards of $30,000, which was made much more affordable by the 50% cost-share provided by the Ranching for Rivers program.

Project Partners