“Here on the prairie, small but important creatures need big spaces. There’s no better example than the greater sage grouse. Not much bigger than a chicken, sage grouse are what biologists call a landscape species. They depend not on a patch of turf but on a sweep of ground and sky big enough to provide a reliable variety of habitats: sagebrush of one size for nesting and another for winter survival, broadleaf plants for rearing chicks, bare ground for mating rituals.”
In Northeastern Montana, not far from the Canadian border, the volcanic uplift of the Little Rocky Mountains is visible across 100 miles of prairie. Layered with granite and ponderosa pine, speckled with aspen that turns brilliant gold in the fall, and blanketed in a white comforter in the winter, this “island” range bathes in watercolor hues come dawn or dusk. And from the foothills of the Little Rockies, where the trees peter out, the Matador Ranch runs southeast across mile after mile of prairie grassland to the eroded scars and sculpted sandstone and wind-bent ponderosas of the Missouri River Breaks. It’s grazing country all the way.