Last weekend (June 18th-20th) the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers teamed up with Wild Montana to clear trail in the Sapphire Mountains of western Montana.
In two-and-a-half days, led by Matt Bowser, Stewardship Director with Wild Montana and Corey Ellis, Chapter Stewardship Leader with Montana BHA, the crew of eight cleared and maintained 3.4 miles of the Gold Creek Trail, a rugged and rocky trail that spans several miles of an old burn. The trail is primarily used by equestrians trying to get away from more crowded trails and by hunters accessing the high country in the fall.
The work included retreading, cutting through blowdowns, trimming the low brush next to the trails, clearing water bars, adding switchbacks and opening up culverts. Aside from the chainsawing, this sort of work isn’t always sexy but it’s desperately needed across our nation's public lands. Properly maintained trails facilitate public use, which leads to a sense of ownership, and people want to protect what we own: our public lands (#publiclandowner).
In the evening the conversations turned to the usual subjects of BHAers: broadhead choice, hunting ethics, game recipes, bullet philosophy, run-ins with bears, conservation and Will Ferrell movies. Perhaps the most notable thing on the trip was the way a group of strangers was able to come together seamlessly to accomplish shared goals. The work was strenuous and potentially dangerous, though Bowser made every effort to keep the trip as safe as possible; there is always some risk when sharp tools are in use though.
Stewardship projects attract a certain lot, the kind with a deep love of the woods and a conservation ethic that runs deep. We all agreed that there is a need for more collaboration between conservation groups and vowed to continue to grow this partnership, now in its third year of cohosted trail projects.