The Buzz on the Range: Promoting healthy soils and pollinators on Montana rangeland

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional + Producer
Funds awarded in 2022: $55,990.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2025
Host Institution Award ID: G242-23-W9211
Grant Recipient: Western Sustainability Exchange
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Michael DeChellis
We Are For The Land Foundation, Inc.
Michael DeChellis
OpenTeam And We Are For the Land Board Member
Michal DeChellis
Cultivating Minds LLC and We Are For the Land Foundation


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), vetches
  • Additional Plants: native plants
  • Animals: bees, bovine, sheep


  • Animal Production: rangeland/pasture management
  • Crop Production: pollinator habitat
  • Education and Training: workshop
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    There is an urgent need for resilient soil, grass, and pollinator habitat in our rangelands.  This can only be achieved through fiscally viable approaches.  This project attempts to demonstrate, with our producer partners as the focus, alternative practices to promote healthy pollinator populations and resilient soils and grass in rangeland. Currently, rangeland producers generally don’t consider that what is good for the bovine is good for the bee. We aim, with this research, education, and resulting business plan inputs, to demonstrate whether there are significant agricultural operation benefits to adjusting practices to use cows to ingest pollinator-friendly native grass seed, then pass and subsequently plant the grasses to (benefit) maximize pollinator populations.  An additional opportunity for an on-ranch enterprise could be applied to new partnerships with beekeepers or start hives of their own.

    We Are For The Land Foundation proposes this project to directly support producers in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem specifically and in Southwest Montana, who are interested in deepening their understanding of soil health, water cycle, alternative approach native grass dispersal and growth, and pollinator communities. Sharing and exhibiting to producers several monitoring and testing techniques to illustrate the benefits of maximizing inputs for profitability and land health. Having a better understanding of what this looks like empowers producers to make more informative financial and land management decisions. Having more data will hopefully allow producers to increase the productivity of their grazing lands and decrease their inputs in management.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Increase producer  and consumer interest in the connection between soil health, pollinators, and grazing in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 

    Objective 2: Build and support a coalition of producers who are adaptive grazing, who interested in increasing their pollinator communities and who are interested in connecting with Montana apiarists. 

    Objective 3: Test adaptive grazing plans with participating producers to support pollinators. 

    Objective 4: Measure pollinators and soil health over 3 years in several locations. 

    Objective 5: Provide community promotion of engaged producers involved in the project. 

    Objective 6: Collect and share the economics of the considered practices involved in this project. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.