As the average age of working landowners increases and younger generations increasingly choose jobs and lives in more urban or populated areas, the rural landscape is changing. And just as often as these changes present challenges, they present opportunities. While in Maine this spring, we visited two working farms that have addressed these types of challenges with creativity, making each challenge an opportunity to build community and connection around working lands: Wolfe’s Neck in Freeport and Aldermere Farm in Rockport.
Reducing Conflict with Grizzly Bears, Wolves and Elk, A Western Landowner’s Guide is now available. This informative landowner’s guide produced by Western Landowners Alliance features case studies from ranchers across the west that address the challenge of how to share and manage a wild, working landscape that sustains both people and wildlife.
Private landowners in Montana now have another option when considering how to integrate hunting into their land management operations and stewardship strategies. The Montana Hunter Advancement Program promotes safe, ethical, and responsible hunting through its focused “Master Hunter” certification program, offered in partnership with forward-thinking private landowners across the state.
Did you know that for nearly a century, San Antonio was the largest city on the western frontier? Or that Texas is the only state to have farm to market roads? Our recent visit to the Witte Museum's Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center immersed us in the culture and history of ranching in South Texas.
Recently we visited the Gaffke Ranch in the Gallatin Valley. The most impactful part of the tour was not the low water component, but Mike's take on the changes to water availability. Mike seemed to be more concerned with the dissolution of community as a result of the decrease in agricultural water users than the water itself.
Earlier this year, we collaborated with The Trust for Public Land on their Community Futures Community Futures Finance Toolbox project. We conducted research to learn how small and rural communities are becoming more livable, resilient, and vibrant. Our research revealed that communities of all sizes are utilizing innovative tools to leverage their natural resources into a prosperous and sustainable future.
In Montana, Montana State University Extension is leading the charge to identify and preserve the heritage orchards that still exist through their Montana Heritage Orchard Program. The designation of Heritage Orchard gives landowners recognition, and helps preserve and propagate the unique fruit tree cultivars.
This summer we had the opportunity to tour one of Montana's Heritage Orchards. The Yellowstone Springs Ranch orchard is currently undergoing the process of genetic testing to determine and catalog the exact cultivars of trees.
As part of their devotion to "the inextricable link between the public lands surrounding our private working lands", the Lemhi Land Trust joined forces with The Nature Conservancy and Pioneer Mountain Group to create the Central Idaho Rangelands Network to encourage collaboration and rangeland monitoring across a large landscape with diverse public and private ownership in Central Idaho.
Just outside of Bozeman in Kelly Canyon, Jennifer and Chris Boyer raise boer and nubian goats on Farm 51. They provide sustainably-raised goat meat to restaurants in Bozeman and to consumers through the local Community Co-op. Farm 51 has grown organically from a hobby to a business for the Boyers.
Focused on the Great Basin, one of 22 Landscape Conservation Cooperatives in North America, the Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative (Great Basin LCC) represents a partnership among public and private groups. The Great Basin LCC supports landscape-scale conservation, promotes science, and enables management based on traditional knowledge and science so human and ecological communities can respond and adapt to climate and land use change.
Montana seems to have an unusually high concentration of makers.
The Montana Television Network (MTN) recently re-launched the Under The Big Sky brand in part to feature the incredible depth of talented makers in the state. Focusing on first-person storytelling, MTN has created the new show to highlight the people, places and organizations that continue to make Montana a strong and dynamic community, and pave the way for the future while embracing and celebrating the past.
The High Divide region of Idaho and Montana straddles the Continental Divide along the Idaho-Montana state line and is the center of connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Crown of the Continent and the wilderness Central Idaho. Although the region only encompasses two states, it has continental significance because it houses headwaters for the Missouri and Columbia watersheds and it is a stronghold for wildlife that have disappeared from much of their historic range.
To protect this crucial area, the High Divide Collaborative is bringing stakeholders together to work collectively to conserve and restore lands of importance for local communities and to protect ecological integrity at the landscape scale.
Starting a new business can be daunting. Thankfully, we have not had to go it along. Our supportive community filled with talented individuals willing to collaborate with us has brought us strength as we've launched and begun to grow Topos & Anthros. Though there are many small businesses that have helped Topos & Anthros get off the ground, we owe extra gratitude to Chema Domenech & Stacy Townsend.
We advocate that real estate and conservation work best in tandem, and that property can honor heritage and strengthen community. Thankfully, we are not alone in our conviction. Our home of southwest Montana has a number of landowners who steward their properties with a similar community-driven mindset. Arthur Blank, owner of Mountain Sky and new owner of neighboring West Creek Ranch, is one such landowner.