On September 25, National Public Lands Day, the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers worked with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Tangle Free Montana to pull a half mile of dilapidated, unruly, wildlife-impeding, rickety and rotten fence from the Mount Jumbo Wildlife Area just outside Missoula.
About 20 people gave up a beautiful Saturday in September (during archery and upland season!) to take on the challenge. The group was varied, being made up of BHA volunteers and board members, Tangle Free Montana volunteers and board members, FWP staff and about eight students from the University of Montana who showed up the day of the homecoming football game. Rep. Marilyn Marler (D-HD90) also joined us.
Normally 20 people would be more than enough to remove the half mile of fence. But because the fence was so old, varied from three- to six-strand, three-quarters of it was partially buried, sometimes attached to steel T-posts and other times rotten fence posts, it took a full effort from everyone involved to get it out of there. The many hands also made light work of carrying the materials back to the road and vehicles where it could be hauled out and recycled properly.
The value of removing the fence and corresponding benefits to wildlife were obvious to everyone. As we made our way to the fence, numerous deer were seen as well as four bears, including a sow which grazed calmly not far from the vehicles while her 2 cubs were content to climb and swing from the branches of a nearby ponderosa. Much of the troubled fence line ran across game trails on a steep slope: the perfect place for game to get caught and tangled in deep winter snow. Anyone who has spent time in Missoula in the winter has likely looked up at Mount Jumbo and seen the elk herd that resides there when snow gets deep. Now, those elk will have one less obstacle to navigate on their vital winter grounds!
Public Lands Day was created so we could all collectively celebrate and give back to our public lands. At BHA we work to protect and promote these lands year round, but September 25th is a day for us to do even more; BHA members and chapters across North America hosted cleanups and public land packouts as part of our month-long effort to remove 10,000 bags of rubbish. Please join us and keep our stewardship opportunities in mind when you find the time to give back to YOUR public lands.