On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, 10 Montana BHA volunteers showed up, despite a gloomy and wet forecast, to remove more than a half mile of dilapidated fencing in crucial big game winter range. This section of land currently owned by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) lies near the Clearwater River just west of the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range and receives heavy winter use from elk, whitetail and mule deer.
The group was led by Montana BHA chapter leaders and the Western Land Steward from TNC. While BHA typically focuses on public lands, we were happy to pitch in and help TNC with this trouble section of fencing on their lands because of their long time efforts to protect wildlife and restore habitat in the area. TNC also maintains an Open Lands Policy that allows hunting, fishing and camping to the general public while they still own and manage the lands.
TNC spearheaded legislation to make possible the first ever conservation easement in the famous Blackfoot Valley just up the road from this fence project. Thanks to this legislation, conservation easements have since protected more than 56 million acres across the country and continue to be one of the most critical tools of modern conservation.
Typical of BHA, the volunteers were a mixed group of public land lovers. There were retirees, students, “work’n guys and gals,” local state representative Marilyn Marler (D-HD90), and a fisheries biologist with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks using his day off to give even more back to wildlife.
For lunch, provided by Montana BHA, the group all climbed “Lewis’ Knob” and took in the view of blooming Arrowleaf Balsamroot, the Blackfoot-Clearwater Game Range and the Scapegoat Wilderness in the distance. Thanks to conservation efforts from agencies like Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, and from groups like BHA and TNC, the view from Lewis’ Knob is largely the same as it was when Merriweather Lewis climbed it himself in 1805.
We greatly appreciate our local volunteers for giving up part of their holiday weekend in the name of wildlife migration and habitat! The barbed wire and bent T-posts amounted to nearly 800lbs and were recycled in nearby Missoula. The remaining usable posts were saved for use by TNC to construct wildlife friendly fencing and protect portions of its lands in the area from grazing.
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Images provided by Chapter Stewardship Leader Corey Ellis.
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