Master hunters volunteer for a day of ranch work

The hunter’s perspective, from the One Montana August newsletter: In the words of one volunteer, Pippin Wallace, “The French’s gave me a deep appreciation for their role as stewards of the land and its challenges.  They shared a vision where the betterment of the land is the long goal and their cattle are just one of their tools used to achieve this. I honestly don’t know how this sharing of experiences could be possible outside of One Montana and am deeply grateful for it!”

The rancher’s experience, by Conni French, C Lazy J Ranch and RSA board member:

The first day of August on the C Lazy J ranch south of Malta, Montana was not as blistering hot as the previous week had been. Thank goodness, because three students and one organizer of the Master Hunter program were visiting the ranch to spend the day doing conservation work. The work crew had already spent considerable time and effort to get to the ranch – they came from Helena, Bozeman, Whitefish and Clyde Park.

We met at the house at 9 a.m. to get to know each other, talk about the ranch and the Master Hunter class, share coffee and cookies, and create a plan of attack.  Our job was to put plastic clips on the top wire of any high collision risk barbed-wire fence that was within 2 miles of a sage grouse lek.  The clips (a.k.a. tags or flags) are designed to minimize bird/fence collisions, and therefore deaths, as they fly in and out of the leks. The C Lazy J Ranch participates in a Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances (CCAA) program, and the clips are one of the suggestions from the program to help protect the sage grouse population. The program is run by The Nature Conservancy and works with landowners to create management plans that benefit greater sage-grouse and 4 grassland songbird species.

We headed out, split into teams, got going good – and ran out of clips. Dang. After a few phone calls we realized it wouldn’t be possible to get more clips that day so we headed to the house for lunch and came up with a plan “B” to finish the day.  (Some days on the ranch it feels like we get all the way to plan “K”!)

We finished the day rolling up some temporary electric fence along the creek. It was a job that needed doing and provided time for some great conversation about ranching, hunting and conservation as we worked side-by-side.

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.

HIRING! RSA office administrator

Ranching, Conservation, Communities – A winning team!  Would you like to be a part of the team? Ranchers Stewardship Alliance is hiring a part-time office administrator. Submit your application by Sept. 7 by email your resume and cover letter to [email protected] Questions? Call 406-654-1405

Job Title: Ranchers Stewardship Alliance Office Administrator

Accountable to: President of the RSA Board of Directors

Application deadline: Sept. 7, 2020

Salary: depending on qualifications

General position description: This is a part-time position, targeting 10-15 hours per week. Hours and days of work may vary according to the needs of RSA and the employee, but it is preferable that work days be designated. The employee will serve a six-month probationary position. The position may be temporary (one to two years), depending on funding.

Office location: Malta Business Center, Malta.

Description of Duties:

  • Notify RSA board, committees, members, partners and the community of monthly meetings.
  • Organize and edit all incoming information for all RSA meetings. Assist the President in organizing meetings and developing agendas for monthly RSA meetings.
  • Compile meeting packets and print for meetings
  • Set up Zoom meeting links and reserve conference room for meetings
  • Record, distribute and file RSA monthly meeting minutes.
  • Maintain record of director’s terms of office and election dates, and track attendance at meetings.
  • Scan documents and maintain an organized filing system.
  • Manage RSA Calendar happenings
  • Work with committee chairs to help execute local events and assignments.
  • Other duties as assigned to assist financial administrator and project leader.


Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • A desire to help fulfill RSA’s mission, “Ranching, Conservation, Communities — A Winning Team!” and be a player on our winning team!
  • Technology and computer skills
  • Computer use for word processing and other Microsoft applications.
  • Ability to develop and maintain effective working relationships with fellow employees, directors and the public.
  • Maintain confidentiality.
  • Self-starter, ability to see needs and work independently.



  • High school diploma or above.
  • Office experience including records management, computer proficiency.
  • Oral and written communication skills.


Please apply by sending cover letter and resume to [email protected] by Sept. 7.  

Students and Stewards: A Story of Collaboration

Students from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, University of Wyoming, Sheridan Community College, and Texas A&M University-Kingsville found themselves this past summer traversing together across Montana’s rangelands surrounding Malta.

They carried tools to measure vegetation cover and evaluate wildlife habitat on native rangeland, restored grassland sites, and cropland. Now, you may be asking, how did these 11 students, undergraduate to PhD, from all over the country find themselves working together in this remote area? This was made possible through the collaboration of a number of different organizations, including Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA), federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and universities. All of them worked to plan, implement, and execute the 2019 Land Management Field Practicum.

The Land Management Field Practicum is an annual, 2-week field practicum hosted by the 4 participating universities that engages students in a collaborative, decision-making process to address a natural resource management question in the West. Although the focus question is different each year, students are always exploring a complex environmental issue of the West and building the skills they need to address them in their careers. During week one students participate in lectures and field visits that introduce them to rangelands, plant identification, research project design, and field methods.

Students also work together to develop data collection methods that will allow them to answer the management question at hand. In week two, students head into the field and put their methods to work collecting data. Finally, students work together to summarize data, analyze results, and author a report of findings to be used by partnering organizations to guide management decisions.

RSA and other conservation partners, such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), have helped landowners seed their marginal cropland to native grass to provide wildlife habitat and forage for cattle. Therefore, these partners were interested in seeing if and how successful these seeding projects have been to date. During 2019, students researched the efficacy of grassland seedings on marginal croplands in Montana by collecting data in the field and then analyzing it. Students compared plant species composition on cropland, restored sites, and native grasslands. They found that on average cropland, restored sites, and native sites contained 8, 15, and 22 different plant species, respectively. Therefore, plant species richness on restored sites have not reached that of native sites yet, but restored sites have a higher diversity of plant species compared to cropland. Native sites also had the lowest percent bare ground (4%) compared to restored (22%) and cropland sites (51%). Plant species that were the most successful at growing in restored sites were western wheatgrass, slender wheatgrass, thickspike wheatgrass, and alfalfa. Students also collected bees at native, restored, and cropland sites to assess if restoration sites are providing habitat for pollinators. Bee species were found at all sites, and native and restored sites had a larger diversity of bee genera (10-11 genera) compared to the 7 genera found at cropland sites. The results of this research will help inform future seeding efforts to maximize effectiveness.

This collaborative effort not only provided students with field and research skills, but it allowed them to connect with other researchers and local ranchers at The Nature Conservancy’s Matador Ranch Science Symposium and a barbeque hosted by RSA. The connections and experiences students have in the field practicum are harder to measure than the grass on the ground, but here are just a few things the students had to say:

“The 2-week land practicum is a wonderful experience. You meet new people from a whole bunch of different backgrounds and get immersed in research. It was my first introduction to a research project.  The approach that the leaders take helps ease you into it, and before you know it you are off to the races. Something that I think really is unique about this program is that the research is going to be a product that will be used and will make a difference for conservation. Overall, you get to see some wild places and have experiences with people in an area where people are few and far between which is also really special.”

  • Range and Wildlife Undergraduate, Texas A&M University- Kingsville

The field practicum was an exceptional learning experience where I was able to contribute to meaningful research on behalf of our partners while learning about the complex and impactful conservation work being done in the Northern Great Plains. The best part was working with a diverse group of colleagues – partners from different universities, backgrounds and expertise. We met lifelong ranchers, conservation professionals, and built working relationships with students and professors from Texas to Montana and Connecticut. This experience showed me that it is possible to do impactful work with people from all backgrounds, finding common ground with people who care about our natural resources.

  • Master’s of Environmental Management Student, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

This applied learning experience was made possible through collaboration between Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, University of Wyoming’s Sheridan Research and Extension Center, Sheridan College, Texas A&M University- Kingsville, Plank Stewardship Initiative, The Nature Conservancy, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Rancher’s Stewardship Alliance, Pheasants Forever, Soil and Water Conservation Districts of Montana, and the private landowners of Montana’s Valley and Phillips Counties.

Authors:  Michelle Downey, Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative at The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies;  Kelsey Molloy, The Nature Conservancy

Always Improving

Ede Breitmeier runs a complicated operation. With multiple herds paired with certain prime bulls, there are a lot of moving parts that make this registered angus operation work. Add in complexities of Northern Montana weather, drought and severe winters, and a separate full-time job (other than ranching) it is enough to make anyone’s head spin. Yet, Ede is on top of it, continually working to improve her operation and improve habitat for wildlife at the same time.

I first started working with Ede setting up grazing monitoring points to help guide grazing management on the operation. Ede was already working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to transition expired CRP into a grazing system. With the help of NRCS she put in a watering system to effectively utilize all the grass she had. This was done to benefit her livestock performance and improve grass health and production.

During the first year of monitoring, it was apparent to me that Ede knew how to manage her grass sustainably. Units were rested and rotated annually, all to improve the health of her system. Abundant and healthy grass stands were proof of her good management. Yet, she was looking for ways to improve her grazing. Each fall we would go monitor each unit talking about how the grass looked and what the use was like, then each winter we would go to the drawing board – working together to find the best plan for using the grass to improve quality for livestock and wildlife habitat. During one of these monitoring days, Ede mentioned how she would like to add a little bit of water and some fence to help graze a couple pieces more efficiently. This, she felt, would further improve her livestock performance and plant health on her operation.

I took that idea to a community-based organization called the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance (RSA). RSA’s three pillars of work are ranching, conservation, and communities and this project was a good fit for RSA to fund through a grant they received from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF). Through the help of RSA, we wrote up an agreement to cost-share a tank, pipeline, and fence to improve management. This agreement also helps ensure that wildlife habitat will stay intact for years to come. Ede’s desire to be a good manager is paying dividends for her operation and for wildlife in the area. Just this year, Ede excitedly told me how she saw Sage grouse for the first time in years out in her pasture!

Ede’s operation is in an incredible area for wildlife. The property adjoins large areas of native prairie on all sides. It represents prime habitat restoration potential for grassland songbird species of concern such as Sprague’s Pipit, McCown’s Longspur, Chestnut Collared Longspur and Baird’s Sparrow. The large blocks of native prairie immediately neighboring this property support strong populations of these species. Additionally, the property is in a priority area for Sage Grouse, has prime waterfowl habitat, and has great Sharp-tail Grouse habitat.

This project showcases how Pheasants Forever is utilizing partnerships in the area to help landowners reach their conservation goals and improve wildlife habitat. This project would not be possible without an amazing landowner, Ede Breitmeier, and a whole host of organizational support (Pheasants Forever, NRCS, NFWF, RSA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).

by Hunter VanDonsel, Pheasants Forever Partner Wildlife Biologist

NFWF Big Game Grant Awarded

Elk by Perri Jacobs

Date: May 3, 2019
Contact: [email protected]

Secretary Bernhardt Announces $10.7 Million in Public-Private Support for Big Game Migration Corridors
Partnership between DOI, NFWF, and ConocoPhillips benefits elk, mule deer and pronghorn in 6 Western states

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced the award of $2.1 million in grants to state and local partners in Colorado, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming for habitat conservation activities in migration corridors and winter range for elk, mule deer, and pronghorn. The targeted big game species will benefit from the conservation actions funded by these grants as will a wide array of plant and other wildlife species.

Through a public-private partnership between the Department of the Interior (DOI), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), and ConocoPhillips, the grants are expected to leverage more than $8.6 million in matching contributions, generating a total conservation impact of more than $10.7 million. The announcement comes as Secretarial Order 3362 is implemented to improve the habitat conditions in big game migration corridors and winter range areas.

“We’re thrilled to have effectively leveraged limited grant funding to accomplish meaningful conservation for wildlife, ” said Secretary Bernhardt. “Working in a collaborative and cooperative fashion with states, landowners, tribes, and partners who are committed to actual on-the-ground habitat conservation projects is the best approach to support a wide variety of voluntary habitat conservation activities.”

“The epic migrations of elk, mule deer and other large mammals in North America is one of nature’s most spectacular phenomena, often involving vast herds of wildlife traveling 100 miles or more between wintering grounds and summer habitats,”said Jeff Trandahl, executive director and CEO of NFWF. “But these iconic animals face ever-increasing impediments to movement from highways, residential development, fencing and other factors. Working with the Department of the Interior and private-sector partners such as ConocoPhillips, NFWF has been able to fund vital conservation projects at migratory bottlenecks and linkages that must be conserved to ensure healthy populations of these iconic animals.”

“For over 100 years, ConocoPhillips has invested in efforts to protect species and the critical habitats that are vital components to ecological balance and environmental sustainability,” said Ryan M. Lance, chairman and chief executive officer of ConocoPhillips. “Understanding and tracking animal movements is crucial for conserving habitats that are essential to species survival. Through our partnership with NFWF and the DOI, we are proud to support this year’s Big Game Migration grant recipients and their efforts to improve critical habitats and migration corridors for these animals.”

The grants represent the first round of awards from the “Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors” competitive grant program. This new public-private partnership was created to enhance and improve habitats on winter ranges, stopover areas and migration corridors used by big game species, both on federal lands and private lands whose owners volunteer to participate in conservation efforts.

Examples of projects that will received grants include:

  • In Colorado, the state Department of Transportation will work with the Southern Ute Tribe and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to install wildlife fencing to direct mule deer, elk, and other wildlife to a either an overpass or underpass on U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs. This project will increase connectivity and maintain a significant corridor for the respective deer and elk herds while reducing mortality for these species and improving motorist safety.
  • In Nevada, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation will help secure 2,100 acres along the base of the Ruby Mountains and a migration route for the state’s largest herd of mule deer. Additionally, the easement will improve the habitat connectivity between U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management administered lands benefiting a multitude of species. A second project by the Nevada Department of Wildlife will restore 2,500 acres of sagebrush in critical mule deer winter range after catastrophic fires destroyed much of the habitat in recent years. This effort is important to re-establish sagebrush and avoid conversion of the landscape to invasive cheatgrass.
  • In Montana, the Ranchers Stewardship Alliance, Inc. will work with a wide range of partners and in a completely voluntary manner with private landowners to improve or modify fencing in corridor areas. Additionally, the Montana Partners for Fish and Wildlife will work with a ranch in the Big Hole Valley by conducting a variety of habitat improvement projects that will benefit pronghorn, elk, mule deer, moose and greater sage-grouse.

Eligible applicants for the program include non-profit 501(c) organizations, U.S. Federal government agencies, state government agencies, local governments, municipal governments, and Indian tribes. For more information about how to apply for this grant, please visit