In 2000, Western Rivers Conservancy's Northern Rockies office completed the Neal Ranch conservation project, protecting 1,213-acres and three miles of the wild Sun River. Located at the base of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, the Neal Ranch is at the heart of one of America's top wildlife areas.
The ranch adjoins the state-owned Sun River Wildlife Management Area, which winters 2,000 elk. Grasslands on the ranch provide critical winter forage for a herd of 200 bighorn sheep. Stands of limber pine serve as mule deer range, and the riparian corridors host whitetail deer and black bear. The ranch also sees occasional mountain lion, gray wolf and grizzly bear. Bird life on the ranch includes sharptail grouse, prairie falcon, golden and bald eagles, waterfowl and a variety of songbirds.
The Sun River offers a high-quality fishery for rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout. Being one of the least developed rivers in Montana, the Sun is threatened by the rising real estate activity along the Rocky Mountain Front. After ensuring that the land would not be sold for development, Western Rivers Conservancy was able to find a conservation buyer who has placed a conservation easement over the property and ensured permanent protection of this vital wildlife habitat.