We’ve heard it time and time again: good fences make good neighbors. But when it’s your community that’s teaming up to pound those posts and stretch that wire, the “neighborhood” becomes a whole lot bigger.
Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit started by a group of 30+ ranch families in 2003, joined a widespread effort in 2019 to improve fencing for wildlife migration. While major partners include the Department of Interior, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), a more homegrown element has come to the forefront.
Hi-Line Sportsmen, a Glasgow-based nonprofit focused on keeping conservation local, and local RSA and FWP staff recently assisted in a volunteer day to help remove fencing from the Swenson Ranch near Glasgow. The goal was to take out fencing identified to be restrictive to wildlife by FWP and replace it with brand new fencing from RSA. New fencing on someone else’s dime? It has a nice ring to it! Along with boasting a new lifespan for the Swenson Ranch, it meets the specs of being “wildlife friendly.”
What is a wildlife friendly fence? Simply, it’s a fence that lets big game animals through while keeping livestock in. Grazing management can be maintained yet migration ease is improved by setting the wires at heights that allow deer and pronghorn to go under, reduce the risk of them tangling legs if they jump and miss, and kept low enough that jumping wildlife cause less damage.
Across the region, other sportsmen groups have rallied around supporting ranchers that are making changes for wildlife. Pheasants Forever has hosted two similar work days in Blaine County with assistance from the Blaine Conservation District and the local Natural Resource Conservation Service field office. The One Montana Master Hunters Program has also traveled to Phillips County to assist ranchers.
Want to help out? On Wednesday, October 19, RSA, FWP, and Hi-Line Sportsmen will be hosting a volunteer day at the Boucher Ranch to remove an un-needed, old woven-wire fence from along the railroad. Projects along high-traffic transportation routes have been identified as priorities. The plan is to meet at Raiders Quick Stop at 8 a.m. before traveling to the project site. Staff and volunteer members of the involved groups will be present to answer any questions.