2020 Landscape Stewardship Award

The following citation was presented to the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance by Public Lands Foundation Montana representative Richard Hopkin. While the citation was issued Sept. 18, 2020, Hopkins presented the citation in at RSA’s January 2021 Annual Meeting.

Public Lands Foundation citation The Public Lands Foundation (PLF) presents the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA), with its 2020 Landscape Stewardship Award and this Citation. The PLF grants this recognition to honor private citizens and organizations that work to advance and sustain community-based stewardship on landscapes that include, in whole or in part, public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

The RSA includes local ranchers as well as specialists from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, National Wildlife Foundation, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Pheasants Forever, World Wildlife Fund, and Ducks Unlimited.

The RSA was recently the recipient of a National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Western Big Game Migration Grant. This grant was co-funded by BLM. The project is funding targeted habitat restoration and enhancement projects to benefit big game winter habitat and migration corridors in north-central Montana.

The RSA is currently implementing on-the-ground projects within priority areas that include seeding over 1,400 acres of croplands to native plant species, improving grazing systems on over 11,500 acres, and converting over 15 miles offence to be wildlife friendly.
The NFWF Big Game grant is just the latest in a long list of grant funding. Since 2017, RSA has received over $1.2 million in grants and has leveraged much more in matching funds from other organizations for on-the-ground conservation projects in north-central Montana. They have also sponsored and hosted numerous educational and informational tours and workshops to share and promote sustainable ranching practices and conservation programs. Sustainability would not be possible without including the public lands that surround and, in most cases, incorporate most north-central Montana ranch operations.

Because such a large portion of the native range in north-central Montana is under private ownership, it would be impossible for BLM to provide for all the habitat needs of native wildlife without the cooperation of private landowners. RSA has provided a bridge between public and private land managers to learn more about each other’s values, concerns, and available resources. By inviting BLM to participate in the RSA, it has enabled better communication and understanding between BLM and area ranchers as well as other conservation organizations. This has enhanced working relationships in ways that promote larger landscape-level projects and has made the associated processes more efficient.

RSA has set an example of leadership, cooperation and community involvement that has inspired other ranching communities to develop their own landscape-level stewardship groups who also work with conservation and public land organizations to implement projects across private and public lands. The types of conservation projects promoted by RSA align with BLM goals and include: installation of fence modifications to allow migrating pronghorn to pass through; marking fences to reduce sage-grouse collisions; voluntary retention of prairie dog colonies; wetland retention and restoration and native grassland restoration; control of noxious weeds and non-native grasses; and implementation of grazing systems to improve rangeland cover for nesting grouse and songbirds.

The Public Lands Foundation is pleased to present the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, with its 2020 Landscape Stewardship Award and this Citation for invaluable contributions to the stewardship of America’s public landscapes.

One Montana’s Master Hunter Program accepting applications

One Montana’s Master Hunter Program is accepting applications October 1, 2020 – November 30, 2020 for the 2021 classes.

The program includes classroom and online instruction, and field work. The course covers wildlife management, history of conservation, hunting culture and ethics, private land stewardship, shooting accuracy and precision, lead-free ammunition, and hunting skills to name a few.  Master Hunter instructors have a wide diversity of knowledge and perspectives and in include ranchers, farmers, university faculty, professional shooting instructors, wildlife managers, and wildlife biologists, and MT Fish Wildlife and Parks personnel, among others.

This year, Ranchers Stewardship Alliance board vice president Conni French and her husband, Craig, hosted three Master Hunter students on their C Lazy J Ranch. Learn about their experience with the hunters and the program here.

“Our biggest take-away from the day was how important it is to keep communication open between hunters and landowners as they share the same resource. As we visited throughout the day we came to understand that these hunters were curious, ethical, hard-working, and enthusiastic. We were lucky to have them come out and work with us for a day and we look forward to another work day with the Master Hunter program down the road.” — Conni French

One of the primary goals of the program is to build trust and working relationships between landowners and sportsmen and women. The program provides hunters the opportunity to learn from landowners about the challenges they face on a daily bases and specifically how wildlife impacts them. Secondly, the program seeks to help landowners and the state with their wildlife management goals. By working with landowners Master Hunters also help to change false perceptions about both hunting and agriculture, and ultimately work to increase access opportunities for future generations.

Locations for classes in 2021 will be offered in Bozeman (February), Great Falls (March), Kalispell (April), and Miles City (May).  Each class will consist of three 2-day weekends, except Miles City will have a two 3-Day weekend format. A weekend rendezvous in June is also required for qualifications, field exercises, and the final exam.

The program cost is $375.  A limited number of scholarships are available through a separate application process. The program is led by One Montana (1MT), a nonprofit located in Bozeman, MT that works to sustain a vibrant Montana by connecting our urban and rural communities.  1MT implements creative programs that maintain agriculture and working lands, support private land stewardship, and preserve our cultural heritage.

Landowners interested in partnering with the program to manage wildlife, build relationships with ethical, educated, and effective hunters, and tell their stewardship story to an audience of sportsmen can fully customize their hunting program with Master Hunter to meet their specific needs.

To learn more about taking the class, email Everett Headley, Lead Instructor, at [email protected]. To inquiry about becoming a land partner of the program, contact Kelly Beevers, at [email protected].

Learn more about the Master Hunter Program at https://www.mtmasterhunter.com/ and  1MT at https://onemontana.org/.