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Riparian fencing built along the Missouri through Ranching for Rivers.

Riparian fencing built along the Missouri through 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 decreased maintenance costs of fencing and off-stream water resources.

Ranching for Rivers enables landowners to better manage the riparian resources on their land by providing them with the needed resources to voluntarily construct fences and/or other infrastructure (crossings, water gaps, offsite water, etc.). Ranching for Rivers provides cost-share that can cover up to 50% of the expense of fencing, 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.

Watch the Ranching for Rivers video to find out more.

Success Story

In early 2016, SWCDM partnered with the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council (MRCDC) to launch the Ranching for Rivers pilot program. Five projects were funded through this pilot program, which helped ranchers develop riparian pastures on their lands by providing 50% cost-share for riparian fencing and related infrastructure (water gaps, off-site tanks, etc) projects. Altogether, the program resulted in over 10 miles of riparian pasture/fencing projects on the Missouri and Milk Rivers. One of the program participants was Dick and Connie Iversen, Richland County ranchers near Culbertson. You can read more about how the project unfolded here.

If you or your Conservation District are interested in learning more about this program, or future Ranching for Rivers funding opportunities, please contact Rachel Frost at or our office at Thank you to Rachel Frost and the Missouri River Conservation Districts Council for bringing this program to fruition and coordinating with landowners, MRCDC member districts for their participation, and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality for project funding.

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