Monday, November 15, 2004

Undaunted Stewardship

Undaunted Stewardship

The coffee pot is on. We spent the afternoon sitting around the ranch house kitchen table discussing long term goals…talking about our role as good stewards of the land… to preserve and improve the land … the roots are deep and the conversation is serious. Rick is the 5th generation in his family to think about the next season’s challenges as he tries to make a living in production agriculture. Like his father before him, Rick ponders how he will be able to pass it on to the next generation.

Another cup of coffee and more paper work later…Rick proclaims in his usual no-bullshit manner: “The bottom line is the bottom line… You can’t starve a profit out of a cow and you must take care of the land if you expect it to take care of you.” That is his way of explaining his goals to remain economically viable … to follow ecologically sound practices and to leave the land in better shape than it was when he became responsible for it over 25 years ago.

It is as though all of a sudden…”we looked around and discovered that we are all on the same page.” It is unique because some of these groups have historically been on opposing sides and now they are coming together…historic, conservation and agricultural groups agreeing…we need to spread the word about good stewardship…And this program, the Undaunted Stewardship Program, is a way to recognize the Montana’s farm and ranch families who are preserving Montana’s open space and scenic beauty while producing food and fiber using agricultural practices that are environmentally sustainable.

Last summer a local Boy Scout Troup camped on our ranch near the old Duck Creek School House as they followed Clark’s trek along the Yellowstone. Montana is where the Corps of Discovery spent more time than anywhere else. Today thanks to generations of agricultural stewardship, these historic landscapes still look largely the same – more so than in any other state. Our goal: to keep them that way. Undaunted Stewardship Certification recognizes those who help keep them natural, productive – and agricultural.

Other Montana ranch families are having these same discussions. They want to tell their story… and ideas have progressed to reality resulting in the development of what has become one of the largest partnerships in the state…the Undaunted Stewardship Program. It is a partnership between Montana’s agricultural and conservation organizations and individual ranch families. Led by Montana State University, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, and the Bureau of Land Management … ranchers are working to preserve Montana’s history, environment, and rural communities by encouraging sustainable stewardship of private agricultural lands. Sixteen other organizations complete the public/private partnership … from CattleWomen, to Woolgrowers … from the Wilderness Association to the Grain Growers… from the Governor’s Office to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Office.