Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Environmental Studies

Department or School/College

Environmental Studies Program

Committee Chair

Neva Hassanein

Commitee Members

Len Broberg, Sara Rinfret, Jeff Schahczenski


conservation agriculture, Conservation Stewardship Program


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Environmental Studies


Industrial agricultural production contributes to some of the most significant environmental problems in the United States today. Scientists have identified agricultural production as a primary cause for the decline of native species, soil degradation, and water pollution in the U.S. In response to this crisis, grassroot organizations crafted, and got Congress to pass, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a federal program aimed to incentivize producers to increase on-farm conservation practices. CSP is designed to serve as a space for producers to gain access to financial and technical support, test out new practices, and provide a platform to discuss best practices when it comes to addressing natural resource concerns. This study explores how Montana farmers and ranchers perceive the strengths, weaknesses, and needs for improvements to the program. Farmers and ranchers from across the state were interviewed over the phone about their perspectives of the program. The interviews included questions about producers’ operations, their motivations for enrolling in CSP, and what they believe are some of the challenges and benefits of the program. Interviewees identified a diverse set of motivations for why they enrolled in the program, including access to financial support, the opportunity to increase their conservation practices, and a chance to learn new techniques. Producers observed many positives changes to their land and are overall satisfied with the program. However, interviewees also identified challenges with the program and recommended ways to improve it, including more practices suited for arid climates. By understanding producers’ experiences with the Conservation Stewardship Program, policy makers are better positioned to make informed decisions on the future direction of CSP.



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