For the first time in its history, Montana’s premiere range education event is coming to Hill County for a two-year stint in Havre.
Montana Range Days, hosted this year and next by the Hill County Conservation District, will run June 24-26 this year with rangeland educational courses and competition for youth ages 4 to 19, along with area tours for parents, chaperons and and youth not participating in the competitions. Registration is open through 6 p.m. of the first day of the event, Tuesday, June 24, with on-site signup at St. Jude Parish Center starting that day at noon until 6 p.m ., when the competitors begin their illustrated talks.
The Parish Center at 440 7th Ave. will serve as the staging grounds for activities, but range courses will be held at the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Rookery northwest of Havre on the Badlands Road.
Developed as a Montana Department of Natural Resources Rangeland Resource Program, Range Days offers courses and activities covering plant and weed identification, plant anatomy, range sites and soils, range plant inventory and monitoring, stocking rate and utilization, and range planning.
The program was developed to help preserve rangelands across Montana, which is why courses are held on-site in various parts of the state, said Jennifer Kenck, Hill County Conservation District administrator.
“If you can pass on good rangeland management practices to the next generation, you can preserve rangeland for the future because, once it starts to go down hill and goes down hill to a certain point, it’s a very hard thing to recover,” Kenck said.
Age divisions for participants are 4-6, 7-8, 9-11, 12-13, 14-19 and rancher/open adult.
As outlined in a press release on the event, the 4- to 6-year-olds will learn about rangeland environments with hands-on activities. The 7- to 8-year-olds will learn about range and the ecosystem through games and activities.
The 9- to 11-year-olds, getting a little more serious, begin to learn about plant anatomy and identification to prepare them for the contest Wednesday. The 12- to 13-year-olds division covers proper grazing, stocking rates and plant anatomy and identification. The 14- to 19-year-olds, including the open and FFA participants, learn about the many aspects of range.
While the kids are learning, the release says, the adults can be participating as well in the rancher/open adult workshops or attend the tours.
Instructors, who follow a set curriculum backed with informational materials for participants, include people from Bureau of Land Management, Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and experienced ranchers, said Kenck.
Attendance from year to year varies, but could easily be around 300 people between participants, family members, organizers and instructors, she said.
Many of the youth participants are FFA and 4-H members who use this opportunity to advance their learning and presentation skills, she added, and Montana State University-Northern is offering one credit for workshop participation.
Participants, both individuals and teams, in each of the age divisions are able to participate in presentation competitions within their age group. Prizes available to competitors range from ribbons to gift certificates and high-end jackets, with more prizes being donated until the event.
For those who are not signed up for the courses or who do not want to be part of the competition, tours through sites in and around Havre are available. These include Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump, Havre Beneath the Streets and Montana State University’s Northern Agricultural Research Center where the Montana CattleWomen will hold an educational event for the younger kids while older kids and adults tour the Research Center’s cattle handling facility.
Details about registration, courses, competitions, tours and prices, as well as local accommodations, are available online at http://www.montanarangedays.org or by calling Jennifer Kenck at 265-6792, ext. 101.