June 2020 Ranchers Stewardship Alliance meeting summary

When we gather together, we learn, share, plan and grow. Thanks to all who joined our June 9 meeting! Here’s a brief summary of our discussion and plans.  Please plan to be a part of our July 14 board meeting at 5 p.m. at the Malta Business Center.

Notes and announcements:

  • Conservation Committee member Kelsey Malloy was interviewed by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s podcast.
  • RSA board member Connie French was interviewed by blogger Francie Berg
  • Conservation Committee member Hunter VanDonsel was recognized as Pheasants Forever Acre Maker for the Western region. Hunter has worked on more than 40,000 acres for conservation.

Old Business:  

EXPANSION COMMITTEE: ACES from Winnett and RSA will meet to discuss how we can better collaborate and work together. What will this structure look like? We’ll look at potential Memorandum of Agreements between us for educations workshops, sharing staff positions, staff capacity grants, strategic planning, etc.

BEEF DONATION COMMITTEE: The Beef Donation Committee reported that area processors are booked out until at least September, and the Malta Food Bank only has room to store about a quarter of a beef if we were to donate. Next steps will be to ask if they would need/have use for an additional freezer.

GLCI GRANT: Montana’s Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative awarded RSA $4,000 per year for the next five years to promote and share ideas about virtual fencing and other grazing innovations. This funding was available through GLCI’s Demonstration Projects funding award. We’ll use this money for speaking events, workshops, video production and possible website upgrades that would allow us to host videos and/or a podcast with discussions about innovative grazing techniques.

WWF’s WHOLE RANCH PLANNING: Claire Hood reported that World Wildlife Fund is moving forward with their plans for Whole Ranch Planning curriculum, which would provide workshops, technical assistance, grazing management plans, some peer-to-peer networking, etc., to interested ranchers. They are currently working with Dallas Mount to develop that curriculum.

New Business:

RANGELAND MONITORING GROUP: Rancher Bill Milton shared information regarding the Rangeland Monitoring Group. This initiative began four years ago, motivated by a desire to document how large community landscapes were changing over time. Ranchers who were investing in building soil health, resilience, biodiversity, etc., were asking, is our work making a different? Is the landscape getting healthier? How do we know?

The goal is to combine ranchers’ experience on how their land is changing with scientific monitoring to create a deeper conversation about what’s really happening on the landscape. This is an opportunity to marry anecdotal experience and day-to-day observations with science and a more sophisticated deep dive perspective on what’s happening on the land. With this date, Bill said, they want to create more credibility and be able to prove ranching’s benefits to wildlife and rural communities. They believe there is an important public trust story to tell for ranching in this data.

Bill would like to find 3-4 ranches in the area who are tracking bird monitoring, soil monitoring, etc., to get involved. These folks share their data and information with one another and are compiling benchmarks and indicators of landscape health that will help them guide a conversation about what’s happening on a landscape over time.

His presentation was simply informational. If you’re interested in learning more, contact Bill Milton at [email protected]. A video about the Rangeland Monitoring Group, featuring Bill can be viewed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1zeqxClyqI

PC PROUD EVENT: This is typically hosted in September – could it be joined with the Range Tour event this year? Perhaps an outside social event in the park, or at a ranch? We considered a social hour and barbecue, with recognition of the past year’s successes and partnerships? Further planning was delegated to the PC Proud Committee, including Kelli French, Kelsey Malloy, Perri Jacobs and Angel DeVries.

FALL WORKSHOP SERIES: We’re open to topic ideas, perhaps focused on grazing management. In years past, this is the workshops that brought Dave Pratt, etc., to the community. Topic ideas are welcome, planning is delegated to the Education/Workshop Committee, including Connie French, Kelli French and Leo Barthelmess.

REVIEW STRATEGIC PLAN: We will review RSA’s mission, vision and strategic plan at 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 17. All board members and conservation committee members are invited.

RSA LIBRARY: We’ll be gathering books of interest to innovative ranching, conservation, rural resilience and leadership to hold and check out at the office.

MONTANA RANGE TOUR: Will be in Malta Sept. 9-10, 2020. RSA will donate $250 to sponsor the social. Learn more or register here.

NEXT MEETING: 5 p.m., July 14, Malta Business Center. Please join us! The next Conservation Committee meeting will be at 2 p.m., July 7 at the Malta Business Center. Both meetings will be offered via zoom video conference, too.

NOTE: this meeting summary does not serve as RSA’s official meeting minutes. For official meeting minutes, please contact RSA Secretary Sheila Walsh at [email protected].

Anne Johnson, DVM