As the crow flies, Lee Cornwell lives more than 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean, but when he rides across the family’s ranch in north central Montana, he feels like he’s in the middle of the sea.
In the summer, he even shares it with some beloved shorebirds. Long-billed curlews, which spend winter along the coasts of Texas, Mexico and California, nest and fledge their young in Montana’s Northern Prairies—on ranches just like the Cornwells.’
By placing nearly 11,300 acres of the family ranch under an easement with The Nature Conservancy, the family is helping protect a whole host of endangered grassland birds. But it’s the threat to family ranching that really motivated the Cornwells’ decision.
“With this easement, the land will stay valued as agriculture, so we can afford to pass it along to our kids. That’s really why we’re doing it, to make sure that the next generation can live this great life,” says Lee Cornwell.
Cornwell’s grandfather started the ranch in 1892, and the fourth generation is already actively managing operations.
“We’re making sure it stays the way it was when my grandfather settled it…we want it to stay in grass.”
And both the next generations and wildlife benefit from that decision.
Read more about the Cornwells’ ranch and its wildlife.