By Lacy Wortman
When Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea and the rest of them camped out on the night of May 28, 1805, they slept on a spot that today is on our ranch, which we can look at through our living room window. It's been reported, accurately I'm sure, that they were filled with undaunted courage, and couldn't have known whether they would survive their journey.
Certainly they never could have imagined that the upcoming 200th anniversary of their cross-country trek would inspire Undaunted Stewardship, a new program my family and I are very excited to be a part of. It may sound extreme, but to be bluntly honest about it, we're hoping and praying that the Undaunted Stewardship program can help us save our ranch, and in the process protect not only our local economy and our children's option to continue their ancestors' lifestyle, but also our "neighborhood's" remarkable and unique environmental qualities, including its abundance of birds and big game. All these goals are dependent on each other; without all of them, each is at risk.
On a broader scale, as one of the program's first showcase ranches, we hope to help Undaunted Stewardship bring people of different backgrounds and perspectives together to use Lewis and Clark tourism, by Montanans and out-of-staters alike, as an opportunity to elevate everyone's appreciation for the environmental and economic values of agriculture, and for ranching's significance in preserving our state's history and its natural splendor at the same time.
For years now, tourist recreation on the Wild and Scenic segment of the Missouri River has been increasing, a trend that's expected to continue.
Many of the river's floaters stop on our ranch, using it as the end point of their trip, while others use this as a spot to resupply and continue on down the river. In addition to our year-round ranching work, we operate a small store that serves these tourists in the summer and through hunting season, and we allow people to visit freely the site of the expedition's 1805 camp, where the Bureau of Land Management has placed a permanent marker. A nearby campground on private land leased by the BLM is often filled and overflowing.
For years, we have wanted to be able to offer more, both to increase the economic value of our family business and to control the impacts tourism creates on our ranch. But we haven't had the expertise to figure out how best to do this, and here's where one of the biggest contributions Undaunted Stewardship can make comes in.
Because of the Undaunted Stewardship program, by sometime next summer people who stop here to visit the Lewis and Clark campsite will find more than a small historic marker in the ground. Instead, an interpretive display will enhance their experience. They'll be able to learn more about the expedition, about the area's history and environmental quality and how we're trying to maintain it, about what they can do to help protect the environment, and about other things they might like to do while they're traveling in this part of Montana. Before the actual bicentennial of the expedition's passage here, tourists also will find a new campground to use as a new element of the mercantile business that we hope to expand in other ways. Undaunted Stewardship will give us technical assistance and expert advice we've needed for all these endeavors.
This means that through Undaunted Stewardship, we can further diversify and improve the economic footing of our small family business, which in turn means that our prospects for staying on the ranch, and for continuing to produce superior beef, can also improve. These days a ranch like ours needs all the help it can get to stay in operation, and succeeding is essential to the survival of our small, rural communities.
Undaunted Stewardship is going to help us do a better job of environmental management, too, which also offers us economic benefits. It's no secret that ranching, when done correctly, is a sustainable business based on careful stewardship of renewable natural resources. That's a major reason the views outside our windows are still pretty much the same as the ones Lewis and Clark saw nearly 200 years ago. But there's always room for improvement, and scientific knowledge is always advancing, and we're looking to Undaunted Stewardship to deliver valuable assistance of this kind as well.
When the Lewis and Clark expedition passed through here, success required undaunted courage. Today, keeping Montana the last best place and maintaining the lifestyles and environmental values we all cherish requires continued undaunted stewardship. Here's the biggest hope of all: that the process of helping ranchers like us survive, by doing an ever-better job of managing the resources everyone enjoys, also allows us to build stronger, positive relationships between rural and urban Montanans, and between Montanans and the rest of the nation.
Lacy Wortman and his wife, Amy, manage the Pavlovick Ranch, adjacent to the Missouri River next to Judith Landing. The ranch has been in agriculture continuously since the 1890s and has been owned by members of Amy's family since the 1950s.