48 wonders of the West

These national monuments and other treasures will make you fall in love with the West all over again

14 national treasures in the West

These unique landscapes have been suggested for national monument status. But you don't have to wait for Washington, D.C., to decide. Here's where to go right now.

West's amazing places: Northern Montana Prairies
Photo by Dave Hanna

Northern Montana Prairies

Montana's open grasslands aren't just beautiful—they provide invaluable habitat for endangered species like the sage grouse and black-footed ferret.

In recent years, the prairies been threatened by plowing for winter wheat and other crops, and have been suggested for National Monument status. But the Nature Conservancy has already taken the lead in preserving these remarkable lands. They’ve purchased 60,000-acre Matador Ranch, south of Malta, Montana, and are using it as a model of how to manage grasslands.

This area is "like the old-growth forests of plains,” says the conservancy's Barbara Cozzens. “Once they’re plowed, you can’t ever replace them.” Just as important, to be out on those prairies under Montana’s big sky is to feel a sense of infinity you won’t experience anywhere else.

Matador Ranch is open to the public for special events, including two birding weekends in May. More

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