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Montana Range Days offers tour opportunities


Press release

The Beaverhead Conservation District is excited to announce two days of range tours offered in conjunction with Montana Range Days.

June 18 and 19, participants will visit some of the most advanced ranching operations in Beaverhead and Madison counties, explore divergent management techniques, and learn from the experts. Anyone interested in rangeland health and stewardship will benefit from attending.

The tour Tuesday, June 18, is an all-day event. It kicks off with a visit to the 345,00-acre ranch owned by Matador Cattle Company. Attendees will learn how Matador has used pasture rotations, winter hay grounds, and cross-fencing to promote biodiversity and healthy rangelands. Matador has earned a number of awards for its range stewardship and wildlife-friendly management practices, including the National Environmental Stewardship Award. It was the first ranch in the United States to receive the Wildlife Habitat Council’s Wildlife at Work certification for outstanding natural resource management initiatives.

The next stop will visit the Helle Ranch where participants will see how the family has used fire and sheep grazing to manage for greater biodiversity, increased productivity, and improved wildlife habitat on the sagebrush steppe biome. The Helle family has been raising sheep in southwest Montana for about a century and rangeland management has always been an important part of their operation. Joe Helle has a master’s degree in range science. His grandson, Weston Helle, is completing his bachelor’s degree in the rangeland ecology and management.

After visiting the Helle Ranch, participants will be treated to a lamb barbecue hosted by the Montana Wool Growers Association.

Tuesday’s tour will conclude at the Maloney Ranch near the Ruby Reservoir. At this stop, representatives from Turner Enterprises, Inc., The Nature Conservancy, Montana State University Extension Forestry, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will explain how they are working together to restore fish and wildlife habitat on rangelands. The team of ranchers, government agencies, educators, and organizations are exploring ways to improve water quality and quantity by removing water-hungry conifers that are encroaching on rangelands. RDO Equipment Co. will provide a live demonstration with its forestry masticator, showing how it can reduce a mature juniper or Douglas fir to mulch in seconds.

Participants are invited to attend a beef banquet and dance after the tours on Tuesday. The cost of admission for the dinner and dance is $20.00 per person. Music will be provided by the Ruby Valley Boys and Barb Wire.

Wednesday, June 19, tour participants will spend the morning touring educational facilities and learning about livestock handling around Dillon. The tour begins at 8 a.m. and ends at 12:30 p.m. The first tour will visit the La Cense Ranch where participants will hear how ranch managers use intensive grazing practices and low stress livestock handling to improve ranch production while reducing impacts to the land and animals.

After visiting the La Cense Ranch, participants will have the opportunity to tour the University of Montana Western’s Equestrian Center. The University of Montana Western’s Equine Studies Program is the only college in the United States to offer a bachelor’s degree in Natural Horsemanship. Students learn the “La Cense Method” of horsemanship and have access to a sophisticated education and boarding facility for horses less than two miles from the college campus.

Tuesday’s tour will conclude at the Beaverhead County High School with an introduction to the school’s new Agriculture–Science–Industrial Technology Complex. The facility, which was completed in April, offers full lab equipment, modern and energy-efficient technology, and state-of-the-art welding stations.

Tours leave from the Beaverhead County Fairgrounds at 8 a.m. The $10 per day fee covers transportation costs. Lunch on Tuesday is provided without cost. Participants can also register for the full event — two days of tours with all meals included — for $50 per person. To register, people can contact Jamie Cottom at 406-683-3802 or visit http://www.montanarangedays.org.


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