Monday, October 18, 2004

University’s Environmental Studies Program visited the ranch

Graduate students from the University’s Environmental Studies Program visited the ranch:

Senator John Esp, Professor Tom Roy and a number of his graduate students

In letters of thanks dated October 18, 2004, Professor Roy wrote:What we do as educators should enable students to become critical thinkers and I don’t know that I have had a richer experience in seeing students appreciate and utilize their thinking capacities than we did [at Crazy Mountain Cattle Company] in Big Timber.

I can say with certainty that each of us returned to Missoula with a much fuller and I hope deeper understanding of ranching-farming in Montana and I think I can safely say a common agreement with you and your neighbors that keeping agricultural land in production is essential to Montana’s future.

I know that we all came away with new perspectives on land conservation easements and the controversy surrounding reintroduction of the wolf into Yellowstone National Park. Indeed on our drive back to Missoula we spent the four hours discussing the wolf. I wish you could have been there. Among the five of us there were a range of opinions about what should be done and varying degrees of sympathy for ranchers and the wolf. But all agreed that ranchers had to have the tools to succeed in keeping their ranch operations viable. I don’t think we would have had that same conversation driving to Big Timber.

For me the most exciting part of our visit was the realization driving home that students were thinking independently…that they had listened and been open to new perspectives and had recognized the limitations of what they had presumed to know. When we got to Missoula I told them that the most important thing that they could do in the years ahead was remember these three days and our discussion and never forget to challenge accepted “wisdom” no matter from what side it came.

Two of the students came in today to ask if they could use a class period to share their experiences in Big Timber with those in the class who could not come. I said certainly and they shall focus upon their new understanding about land conservation, wolf reintroduction and noxious weed issues. I can assure you that the voice of the rancher will be heard in a way we have not articulated before.

I believe that what we are about in Environmental Studies is building healthy communities. The environment is one piece of such communities…as are jobs, good schools, a sound economy, adequate health care etc. I wish I was smart enough to know all that healthy communities require and how we insure such communities across Montana. I am not. But I do believe that meeting and spending time together as we did is the beginning of learning and figuring out how we can keep Montana a special place for all of us and I am going to propose to the university faculty that we plan a similar adventure to Big Timber for next year. I would like to think that our conversation has just begun.

The students join me in the sincerest thank you we can extend.

Appreciately, Tom Roy,
University of MontanaDirector Environmental Studies Program
Missoula, Montana

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